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After Peres and King Abdullah, Abbas visits Vatican

After Peres and King Abdullah, Abbas visits Vatican

Image-Gardes-suisses-300x203ROME – It is on a hypothetical background of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage in the Holy Land that  the president of the Palestinian Authority is expected to meet with him at the Vatican on Thursday, October 17.  The meeting takes place  as peace talks resumed in Jerusalem after a freeze of almost three years. 

The Palestinian President will have an audience with the Pope on Thursday, October 17, as stated by the I.Media agency.  This is the first visit with Pope Francis, following numerous meetings between President Abbas and Pope Benedict XVI, five time in the Vatican and in the Holy Land in  May 2009.  It is likely that President Abbas will formally invite the Pope to come to Palestine.

Lately, rumors of Pope’s visit to the Holy Land has spread. In fact, the invitations are plentiful, and the allusions are less equivocal. Note first that the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem invited the newly elected Pope to visit the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  More recently, the chairman of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) Yuli Edelstein, praised Pope Francis at the end of a general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, October 9, and invited him to address the Parliament.

It is also known that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople wishes to commemorate with Pope Francis in Jerusalem, the anniversary of the historical meeting between Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras, which took place in January 1964 during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land  On the flight back from Brazil in late July after WYD, the Pope confirmed to the press that desire.

A few days ago, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, president of the Rabbinical Seminary of Buenos Aires and a longtime friend of Pope Francis said, “we dream of traveling together in Israel soon and the Pope is working on this.

However, Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesperson of the Holy See, in an interview with AFP, confirmed that ” Pope Francis, on various occasions, expressed his clear desire to go to the Holy Land next year,” he added that “the date and program are not defined, much less announced. So the Israeli information that stated March is not confirmed. ”

Pope prays for the East

One thing is certain: a trip is highly desired. Proof is that the Holy Father continues to urge Christians to pray for peace in the Middle East. He recalled on October 9, that “on October 10, 2012  Pope Benedict, after his trip to Lebanon and the presentation of the Apostolic Exhortation, “The Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness,” added the Arabic language to the General Audience messages (..) to express to all the Christians of the Middle East the proximity of the Catholic Church to her children in the East.”  Pope Francis also asked:pray for peace in the Middle East: Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and the Holy Land, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  On October 4 during the Mass celebrated in Assisi, Pope Francis made a strong appeal in the same direction. 

The situation in the Middle East profoundly affects the Pope, who did not hesitate to declare a day of prayer and fasting on September 7 for Syria and for peace in the Middle East. He also received King Abdullah II of Jordan on August 29 in a very tense context, linked to Syrian and Egyptian crises. During this interview, the Pope and the King also discussed the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, a process that the Pope did not hesitate to entrust the prayer of Christians ” for it moves decisively and courageously.” If a trip is confirmed, Rabbi Abraham Skorka already announced by speaking of the Pope “I accompany him in Bethlehem, in the Palestinian Territories. His presence can be very valuable when the peace talks resume.

So we imagine without much difficulty the topics to be discussed during the meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and the Pope. A note for the record that this meeting took place two weeks after the Bilateral Commission between the Holy See and the State of Palestine, charged with developing an agreement on the life and activity of the Church, during a plenary session at the Vatican on September 26, 2013.  The development of the text of the  Agreement is progressing.   A final statement indicated that “discussions were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere. Taking the issues already discussed at an informal level, the Commission noted with great satisfaction, the progress made ​​in developing the text of the Agreement, which deals with key aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine, and has encouraged the efforts of the joint technical group, inviting complete discussions on other parts of the text, the formulation is already at an advanced stage.”  Both parties have agreed for the joint technical group to continue the work of preparation for the next plenary meeting of the Bilateral Commission, scheduled for early 2014.

Christophe Lafontaine