The small but dedicated world of Jewish-Christian relations is busy this morning trying to figure out what's going on. The Times of Israel reported yesterday that the Pope's trip to Israel has been canceled due to a labor dispute.

A source at the [foreign] 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.

The cancellation is likely to cause “large, measurable economic damage, with all the lost tourist revenue that would have accompanied the visit,” the source said.

The strike within Israel's diplomatic service would also endanger a visit from British PM David Cameron.

But a few hours ago, the Jerusalem Post countered yesterday's news:

The Vatican denied on Friday reports coming from Israel stating that Pope Francis has cancelled his visit to Israel, scheduled for May, due to the ongoing strike of Israel's Foreign Ministry workers.

"The strike may create difficulties but for now there is nothing further as far as were concerned," said Father Frederico Lombardi.

It's hard to know what to believe here. On one side, Fr. Lombardi seems to be a better source than an unnamed source at Israel's Foreign Ministry. On the other, it's impossible to imagine how a trip of this sort could go forward without "all hands on deck" from the Israeli side.

After seven months of mediation, the labor dispute was not able to be resolved. And the list of suspended services is long:

As of Tuesday, the workers claim they will not provide consular services; not service official visits either to Israel from foreign dignitaries or abroad by Israeli officials, including the president and prime minister; will not issue diplomatic passports; and will stop logistical support for political appointees taking up their positions abroad. (Emphasis added)

For now, the hoped-for trip to the Holy Land is in a holding pattern.


Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University and on the staff of its Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. He is the author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard. He is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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