A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Pope in the Holy Land

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in Jordan on the first leg of his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Here's the Vatican's website on the trip for those who want to follow it over the weekend, and here's the official itinerary. Here's a prelude from Haaretz, a report on how he will visit both the Al-Aqsa Mosque* and Yad Vashem (many Israeli newspapers noting the irony of a German Pope at Yad Vashem), a Jordan Times report on his first event, and much more to come, I'm sure. *The papal itinerary lists the Dome of the Rock rather than al-Aqsa; possibly the Israeli report got it wrong.

I've noted previously the quandary of Middle Eastern Christians: in Iraq, their status is genuinely in peril, but in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the population is declining due to emigration. The Pope will doubtless address this on his trip, hopefully without the awkwardness displayed in his remarks about Islam a few years ago (in which his quoting a Byzantine ruler was interpreted by many Muslims as if it were his own viewpoint). This Pope is a German systematic theologian by background, and that is not necessarily the best background for subtle and nuanced pastoral outreach. This could be an interesting trip.

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