Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious and Heritage Studies in the Holy Land
A Panel titled:
“A Reading of His Holiness Pope Francis’ Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 24-26 May 2014”
Wednesday, 4 June 2014, at 6:00 P.m., at Al-Liqa’s Lecture Hall
Al-Liqa’s Lecture Hall was crowded with personalities, males and females, secular and religious, from the Bethlehem and Jerusalem Governorates. Moderator Dr. Geries S. Khoury welcomed the panelists and all attendees. He added that it is indeed a blessing, the visit of His Holiness to the Holy Land. The context of Pope Francis’ upbringing in Argentina is similar to the Palestinian situation in as far as marginalization suppressive and poverty. The situation of his parishioners in Argentina is similar to that of the Palestinians. That is why he wanted to do his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to his parishioners and to see their miseries. He prayed and he will continue to pray for peace and justice for all people in general and the people in the Holy Land in particular.
H.E. Bishop William Shomali, the first panelist, followed with an overview of organizing the visit of the Pope and the ecumenical aspect of the visit which was seen in the meeting between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Bartholomew, in the holy Sepulcher church. The Pope then met with the Mufti of Jerusalem, His Excellency Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, and other Muslims. Bishop William focused as well on the Pope’s visit to Bethlehem and His Holiness’ meeting with several Palestinian families as a gesture of his closeness to the poor and marginalized. The climax of his visit to Bethlehem was touching with his hands the separation wall and His prayer in front of it and his meeting with the youth in the Dheisheh refugee Palestinian camp.
H.E. Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. ‘Issa Qassissiya, focused on the political aspects of His Holiness’ visit. The Palestinian people and President Abu Mazen received him warmly. The Pop’s replies were always stressing peace and justice and the rights of Palestinians.
His Holiness’ Visit to the Dheisheh refugee camp and the youth symbolized the dire need for a just peace and the solution of the refugee problem. Israelis tried to exploit his visit to their advantage, but the Pope did what his pilgrimage intention. The Pope’s visit to the Sho’ah victims and Theodore Herzel were a part of the protocol for heads of states visiting Israel.
A detailed question and answer session followed the presentation. Both panelists stressed that the preparation for the Pope’s visit was not easy especially from the Israeli side. There were many shortcomings before and during the visit. But overall, it was a successful visit and pilgrimage hoping that there will be more cooperation between all sides. Both panelists thanked Muslims and Christians as well as the PNA and its President Abu Mazen, the Mayor of Bethlehem and members of the municipal council and the community for doing their utmost to make the Pope’s pilgrimage a successful one.