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Welcome Francis!

Papal trips have become important international events. They are a sign of the Church's opennes to the world, on the one hand, and a sign of a welcoming country, on the other. Pope Francis's trip to Israel later this month was postponed once because of a strike, but is on again for late May.

It happens that the most welcoming group may be the rabbis traveling from Latin America who plan to be in Jerusalem to meet him when he arrives. Israelis, who encouraged the trip, seem to be having second thoughts. There have been an uptick in "price-tag" attacks on Christian sites. Security officials fear that there will be disruptions during the visit. The police have asked Franciscans in Jerusalem to remove a banner welcoming the Pope. Should Francis stay home where he has his own curial troublemakers?

A round-up of the issues (which have been widely reported in the Israeli press).

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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Talk about a hornets nest. John Paul survived it. As did Benedict. John Paul and Francis seem genuinely in tune with Jews. He should go. In this instant communication world Francis can watch the Curia of his phone while visiting this historic land. Maybe Abraham, Moses and David will join Peter and Paul and Mohammed in bringing God's people together. 

"Pope Francis's trip to Israel later this month was postponed once because of a strike."

No, it was not. The trip was never postponed. Even during the strike, the Vatican had always said the Pope would go, regardless.

Of course, if you have a statement from the Vatican stating otherwise, do feel free to post that.

"Should Francis stay home where he has his own curial troublemakers?"

Um, no?

Let me ask you this though: do you ask the same question whenever the US president makes a trip abroad? Do you think God would prefer that Francis "stay home"?


Israelis, who encouraged the trip, seem to be having second thoughts.

Quite the contrary, according to the morning's news, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has inaugurated its own site for the pilgrimage of Pope Francis:

It rather seems to me that the only people "having second thoughts" are bigots, in which case, all the more reason for the Pope to go to reveal their hatred and intolerance on the world stage, or as the first commenter on the article you linked said: 

"Let them be seen on international tv screens and print media demonstrating their hatred of all things non Jewish."

@May 14, 2014 - 2:43am

Whatever the Vatican may have said or done, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said: "Pope Francis has been forced to cancel his planned visit to Israel, which was to take place over May 24-26, due to the ongoing labor dispute at the Foreign Ministry. 

"A source at the ministry confirmed to The Times of Israel on Thursday that the pontiff’s trip was cancelled because Foreign Ministry workers are currently on strike and are unable to make the necessary arrangements for the high-profile visit." Times of Israel  March 6, 2014

To which Vatican responded thusly:

Vatican officials on Friday have denied reports claiming Pope Francis has decided to cancel his planned visit to Israel in May as a result of an ongoing labor dispute within Israel's Foreign Ministry.

The director of the Holy See Press Office Father Frederico Lombardi said "The strike may create difficulties but for now there is nothing further as far as were concerned."

Citing an unnamed source at the ministry, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday that the pope's scheduled trip was cancelled because most of the Foreign Ministry's workers are presently on strike and would therefore be unable to make the necessary arrangements for the visit...

Vatican sources told i24news they were not aware that the visit had officially been cancelled and characterized the news as a trial balloon by workers to pressure ministry management. The official also said that as far as he knew, the visit will take place as planned.

A source in the Foreign Ministry's Workers Union noted on Twitter that while the visit was "at risk," it had not been officially cancelled.

So, yeah.

Yes, conflicting news accounts! Ole! Only God knows, it appears.

Hey, did you censor and delete my previous post about God's eye roll?

No matter (or perhaps I should say whatever), yes, only God would know.

In the meantime, I for one am going to believe Fr. Lombardi's words, which have been quoted, over some "unnamed source".


Also, in case it wasn't clear, I do not get the point of this thread, or the intent behind the question you posed ("Should Francis stay home..."), so there's also that. 


You've had enough air time. I get your point.

You've had enough air time. I get your point.

Why thank you. That's good to hear.

And so, would you be so kind as to explain your point then, which I somehow fail to get?

After all, is that not why you post on dotCommonweal? To make a point and engage in a discussion with commenters who frequent the blog?


The Point: The victims of most "price-tag" attacks are Arabs, Muslims and Christians, who live both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories.  There have been recent attacks on Christian sites and Mosques as well. The cars of Arab residents of Jerusalem are spray painted and their tires slashed.

If Israeli intellegence and police are concerned about the increase in such attacks and perhaps more violent ones because of the Pope's visit, should the Pope come? Or should he not?

He, of course, will be well protected, but Christians and Muslims will not be. Some among the West Bank settlers do not hesitate to attack them and the Israeli Defense Forces do not seem much interested in stopping them.

Thank you.

And of course the Pope should go -- and he will, thanks be to God -- and bring the message of peace and hope to the persecuted and the oppressed, who, according to just as many news reports, want him there.

Otherwise, the terrorists will have won.


And with that, I shall not waste any more "air time" on your thread. Good bye.



The Pope's visits have to exhibit the virtue of prudence. They are not there to prove he is in favor of peace or to demonstrate that he can't be threatened. They are not required for ushering in the reign of God or for determining who is "a bigot" (your word). Rather, each occasion needs to be judged within its context and time. For heaven's sake, you make this sound like it's some sort of a live or die situation for the Pope's honor and the cause of justice in the middle east. Come on. The Pope has been to many countries and peace has not broken out as a result.

There are many factors intersecting when a pope comes to visit. Cost, security, timing. He is not obliged to visit, and if it puts the faithful under additional stress, it's not wrong to reconsider or even to cancel. 

The Pope as globetrotting peacemaker is a brand new role, not required of him by the tradition in any way shape or form. If you want to argue that it's now essential in today's world, fine, but you should realize that it has never been seen that way before and you should be prepared to mount a real argument, rather than saying it as if it's self-evident and throwing around terms like "bigot" for people who don't agree with you.

One of my gripes with these trips is the cost. World Youth Days have been ruinously expensive for the church in the countries that have hosted them. They create a great experience and then that's it. Similar with papal visits. Big crowds. A big emotional high. A big price tag. My second gripe is a counter-cultural statement. If the pope stayed home all the time I would be happier than if he ran around all the time. Take care to be rooted, lest you forget who you are. We have too many Big Shots traveling all the time. More people should stay home. 

OK, now, call me a bigot.

Security is a serious matter, and I hope Pope Francis is being well advised about it.  The Church needs him. The trip to Israel might wait until his hosts can more confidently assure his safety. Rita is right. Prudence is  needed in making travel plans that involve not only the Pope's safety, but the safety of others. And, I would add, the hopes of many in the church for all that he might do in future.     

Rita - thanks and remember Francis' quote - airport bishops.  (and it wasn't a postive statement)

The pope heads a universal church with the majority of adherents anyplace other than Italy or even Europe.  The vast majority of Catholics will never make it to Rome to see Francis nor any pope.

OTOH, there is plenty to do in Rome with starting to clean up the Vatican.  JPII appeared to run away from the mess there with his globetrotting forays.  B16 ran away from it via theologizing.  Francis knows what is on his plate and appears willing to at least make a start.

There has to be a balance between how to be leader of a global church in a concrete, physical way and how to take care of one's many housekeeping chores.

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