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Welcome? Francis! 2

As Francis arrives in the Middle East on May 24, there are continuing concerns both about the diplomatic to and fro, and about security.

The New York Times reports on the trip's several pitfalls, suggesting that the visit acknowledging all the major players will please few of them. "At each stop on the orchestrated itinerary, the Vatican’s focus...could be overshadowed as all sides dissect Francis’ every action. Already, his effort at ecumenical outreach, traveling with a rabbi and an imam from his native Buenos Aires, has led to criticism that he is not fully engaging local religious leaders."

And from Loblog a run-down of the security concerns about his visit to Israel. "The section of the [U.S.] State Department’s 2013 County Reports on Terrorism dealing with Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza drew attention to the growing threat posed by “extremist Israeli settlers.” It cited “399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage” and deemed them “violent extremists” — mostly over “price tag” attacks against Palestinian Arab homes and property. “Price tag” is a code-term used by Jewish extremists to justify what they claim are retaliatory actions against Arabs or proposed policies of the Israeli government — policies that would restrict the expansion of settlements in “Judea and Samaria,” the preferred settler term for the occupied territories in the West Bank. “Price tag” has been appearing prominently in the Hebrew graffiti defacing Christian sites."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I am concerned less with security and more about his health.

Should he fall ill in Jordan or Israel, there are good hospitals; in the State of Palestine, he would probably have to go through some checkpoints, just as the Palestinians do.

Pope Francis has become known for his disarming and spontaneous gestures. In the crucible that is the Middle East, his intelligence, wit, diplomacy, and unselfishness will likely be tested, but I think he is up to it, and I'm looking forward to following the details of his trip. 

Agree with Bill C. This is a good time to teach about love of enemies. Clarification too. When Jesus talked about being perfect he pointed to love of enemies. There is no greater act of generosity or love. This is what is meant by being perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Not some rote following of monastic rules, blind obedience or the recitation of a zillion prayers. 

Hopefully it is goodbye Charlegmagne. Welcome Francis. 

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