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The BBC's Brian Hanrahan in Galilee:
"It will be sermon that speaks to the religious issues that are touched on the spot"
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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 08:10 GMT
The Pope's personal pilgrimage
Pilgims tour the Sea of Galilee
Pilgims tour the Sea of Galilee
By the BBC's Hilary Andersson

Pope John Paul II's visit to the Mount of Beatitudes is the religious climax of his week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which so far has been dominated by politics.



It is a very powerful effect for the vast majority of people in this society who haven't heard these things before

Rabbi David Rosen
Through rain and shine, the workmen have been out preparing the ground for the arrival of the Pope at the site where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.

Overnight, hundreds of pilgrims camped out on the nearby shores of the Sea of Galilee in preparation for the Mass.

Dream fulfilled

For the Pope, the event will be the fulfilment of a long cherished dream.

"This visit, to him, of course is first and foremost a personal pilgrimage," says Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Council for Christians and Jews.

"But it's also an opportunity for him to present and to put his church out there, as it were, as the moral and spiritual force that he wants it to be," he says.

So far, the Pope's trip here has been dominated by the intense politics of the region and by tales of enormous suffering.

At Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum, the Pope heard letters written by Jews who later perished in the genocide and he was visibly moved.


Pope
It is a personal pilgrimage for the Pope
In a speech, the Pope apologised for anti-semitism amongst Christians throughout the ages.

His apology did not go as far as some here would have liked.

Many Jews wanted him to condemn the Catholic Church, which failed to speak out against the genocide of the Jews when it was happening.

Historic impact

But the Pope's mere presence here still had an historic impact, and Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, had words of deep appreciation.

"I think I can say, your holiness, that your coming here today to the tent of remembrance at Yad Vashem is the climax of this historic journey of healing," Barak said.

The Pope has come to the Holy Land as a spiritual leader with a clear message - the religious rifts of the past must be left behind.


Pope
The Pope expressed grief at Yad Vashem
Ordinary Israelis live in a land of conflict and, says Rabbi Rosen, they think of Christians in terms of centuries-old tensions, so the Pope - who is reasonable with his simple message - is a surprise.

"This new image that they see is the Pope coming and speaking and identifying with the plight and with the suffering, and talking of the need for reconciliation and expressing remorse for the way Christians have behaved in the course of history," Rabbi Rosen says.

"I think that is a very powerful effect for the vast majority of people in this society who haven't heard these things before," he says.

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See also:

23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Vatican's Mid-East balancing act
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Pope's message scrutinised
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Arab press celebrate Pope's support
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Pope's address at Yad Vashem
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Israel hails Pope's Holocaust grief
22 Mar 00 | Middle East
Pope's plea for Palestinian refugees
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