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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
The Pope on a tightrope
He has called for a Palestinian homeland and highlighted the plight of Palestinian refugees. He has also visited Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Jews killed in the Holocaust, and expressed his "sadness" at the persecution of Jews by Christians throughout history.
Pope John Paul II has walked a delicate tightrope in his pilgrimage through one of the world's most religiously and politically volatile spots.
Has he succeeded? Is it worth it? What will be left behind when the media circus has left? Send us your comments.
Em from the USA said that the sooner we lose the Catholic church and the Pope the better which is exactly the kind of attitude and discrimination that the Pope is trying to eradicate with visits like these. Yes, he is old and is in ailing health, which makes the possibility of any 'hidden agenda' quite unlikely. The Catholic faith and the Pope are truly remarkable and will be around for many more centuries to come.
Stella Pitt, England
The Pope is a man of great faith in Almighty God and has the support of hundreds of millions of fellow Catholics around the world who have prayed for the spiritual success of his pilgrimage papacy. His example teaches us that we can set a positive example to each other without making controversial and provocative statements merely to score political points. Only the bitter, the war-mongers, those who hate and desire revenge for no matter what, and, of course, the media could possibly desire anything but a violent and controversial reaction in his wake!
I do not think that this visit achieved anything. It was a great show-off, yes, but in the long run it will matter not. The Pope wanted to see the Holy Land and now he has, that's it. I would urge people not to put more emphasis on things that are of secondary value to the World. Let's move on.
The Pope has done a great job: he has embraced all the problems of the region (anti-Semitism and refugees); he has shown a great respect and compassion for all. On one hand he has supported the religious and spiritual contribution that religions can give to the peace process without entering immediately in politics. The only way for peace in the Holy Land is to have two secular states, Israel and Palestine, capable of respecting the rights of the human beings belonging or not belonging to the three religions.
The Pope has at the best to seem even-handed in his public statements, all deliberately contrived so as not to upset the Israeli politicos and military. In such an atmosphere of threat and menace, the Pope has nevertheless had the courage to call for Palestinian statehood and recognises the injustices perpetrated against them by Israel and its apologists in Western Europe and the USA, over the past fifty years. The Palestinians are the victims of Israeli aggression, persecution and ethnic cleansing.
Whatever one's views on organised religion, the Pope is walking a thin political tightrope.
Pope John Paul II has been pursuing peace in a world of tensions and tribulations. His visit to the Middle East left good impressions. His apology for the Holocaust is a sign of his greatness. Such measures will help to eliminate the wounds of the century. He also forcefully depicted the plight of the Palestinians and strongly advocated a homeland for them. This message becomes meaningful if the politicians realise the importance.
The Pope, and some of the contributors to this column, should take note of some historical facts. The Palestinian Arabs lost their homes during wars repeatedly instigated by surrounding Arab nations attempting to destroy Israel. Misrepresenting the facts will not bring peace.
This Pope, John Paul II, is God's great gift and blessing to the entire human race at the present time. I praise God for Him. I thank all who love him and work with him. Religion is all about the Love of God and loving thy neighbour. This Pope radiates this Love to all Catholic or non Catholic, Christian or non Christian, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Natural Religionists even non believers.
Now what happens after the Pope's visit to Palestine?
Apology for the Holocaust? For What? The Vatican did not do anything to harm the Jews during World War II, that's a fact. By the way, if there is anybody who needs to apologise it's the Zionist Jews for committing the world's greatest heist - the theft of a people's land - Palestine.
I don't know why anyone cares what the Pope says or thinks. Just because the Pope suddenly indicates that Palestinians should have an independent state, the cause is suddenly validated. The cause is a valid one, with or without the Pope's blessing. Where has he been for the last 50 years?
Adeesha Hack, Canada
However well meaning and sincere his visit, his views on many issues do not address the needs of the 21st century and are therefore irrelevant, even to many Catholics. His visit was a nice little publicity exercise, but I doubt it will influence events to any degree.
Yeah I think that the Pope has contributed to the peace process and his apology to the Jews will also help defuse the situation.
The Catholic Church has been anti-Semitic. There can be no dispute on this fact. Since the 3rd Century we find evidence of this in Catholic Doctrine. That the Holy Father now sees fit to redress this can only be a good thing. Since he is the 'Successor of Peter' he is the person to make this apology. Many of the above contributions are real red herrings - what does all of this have to do with Northern Ireland, for example (of which I am a native)? Just because we bury the dead doesn't mean we condone their actions - the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland has been unequivocal in its condemnation of IRA violence. Don't lose sight of the importance of the move made by John Paul II.
Paul Fraser, United States
Although not a Catholic and not always an admirer of the views of this particular Pope on many issues, I take issue with those who now mock or deride the events of his recent trip to the Middle East. It should be clear to all but the most intolerant or bigoted that the Pope is motivated by sincere good will, and a desire for justice and peace. For that he deserves nothing but respect and praise. God bless him.
John Paul II is a man to be admired and cherished by all people, regardless of their religious and political affiliations. He has done more for this world than any other religious leader has done in the past or present and his unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life should be appreciated by all religions.
Although I'm not a Christian myself, I applaud Christians for having this great man as their leader. He is a man whom this world cannot do without.
The Pope has indeed had a tremendous and well-received visit to the Holy Land.
He has reiterated the wishes of the International Community in emphasising the need for
a just and durable peace and a Palestinian homeland.
The Pope represents 1 billion Catholics and the Vatican has shown courage to resist Israel's illegal claim to occupied Arab East Jerusalem. The EU also rejects Israel's claim to the Holy City.
I do believe that basically he is a good man who said some good things, but all too little and all too late. You have to give him credit for not playing the fiddle for the US or the Israelis and having the courage to speak out against oppression.
But does one have to wait till one fears that one's time is up to try and do a good deed or two to appease God??? Leaders such as him should have the courage and fortitude to speak out against those leaders who would compromise the moral fibre of a people. But for all that he has done we must appreciate his candour.
Tahir Nawab, USA
I think the pope's visit is not important for any reason.
Isreal is not going to back up from Palestinian land.
Only God can bring a peace! Not a pope or any human.
The Roman Catholic Church owes no apology to anybody for the activities of the Nazi Party during WWII. The Vatican did not initiate, carry out or support these activities. The Roman Catholic Church may wish to apologise for burning Joan of Arc, the Inquisition by their Catholic Majesties, some of the Crusades, and the abominations against pagan "Indians" in the Americas. I am weary of the Apology Collectors.
Who cares? As the head of an antiquated religious system with dreadful views on abortion and homosexuality (to name but two things), the sooner the world loses RC religion as an institution the better. Please can't someone ask God to finally get this old man, and his religion, to shuffle off stage?
As a Student Priest of Polish Origin who has been privileged to meet this Pope twice, I can honestly say that his genuine love and concern for truth, human dignity and the rights of defenceless from the womb to the tomb have contributed to making this world a slightly more humane and peaceful place. That is how history will remember him.
I think it a shame that the Pope could not pay a visit to the Holy Land as a pilgrim without being courted by political groups.
I agree that the Pope is building a bridge of peace across a "river of blood" between Catholics and Jews. I hope that bridge will be build as fast as possible and at equal rate on both sides - so it doesn't collapse.
As a Christian, but not a Catholic, I'm saddened to read the comments of many people here who seem to think that being a Christian means that you persecute Jewish people. Real Christ-centred Biblical Christianity has nothing to do with hatred of anyone. Persecution of anyone for any reason goes against everything I believe in.
I am an Orthodox Christian in religion, however, I am a big fan of this particular Pope. Though I feel, admitting errors or past sin without identifying it or offering reparation for it is half of a job accomplished. For instance, if I take something from someone unjustly and later acknowledged my mistake and asked for forgiveness. I may forgive him all right, but I would need my stuff back. I hope that the Pope's next step would be reparation.
As someone who has studied a little about the Crusades, I was deeply moved by the fact that during the mass in Manger Square there was no reaction but patient waiting during the call of the muezzin. If something like this had happened nine hundred years ago it would have probably been followed by a massacre. Things have changed considerably and I do sincerely hope for peace between Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The Pope forgets that alongside the Jews in the camps were the gays, the disabled and gypsies. Given the widespread discrimination against at least two of these groups, perpetuated by Catholic ideology, his apology is nothing more than political posturing.
I cannot help but be mystified as to the source of so much of the consternation over the Pope's visit to the Holy Land. He is on a spiritual and personal pilgrimage. Yet the world waits, with baited breath, for any misstep of a political nature. The Pope's legacy and impact upon the church and indeed the world will not be viewed according to his political beliefs, but rather, according to the grace and love of Jesus Christ that he has shown time and time again in whatever country or situation that he has ever found himself in.
It should be remembered that the Pope is first and foremost a pastor, and he is doing a great job in preaching the message of Jesus in the place where Jesus was born. His service to his faith will be of great pride to Catholics everywhere and I would expect that the Christian faith of those who hear him will continue to be strengthened long over the political implications of this trip are forgotten. As for the comments by David from Luxumbourg, it will be a cold day in hell before this Pope or the Catholic Church changes its views on abortion.
P Gibbons, England
The Pope's apology is nothing short of pathetic. The truly contrite aim to make amends by, for example, telling the whole truth. The Vatican's refusal to open wartime archives and continuing to move towards the canonisation of the wartime Pope is hardly consistent with the sorrow expressed. The stink of hypocrisy is nauseating.
The Pope's very visit to Yad Vashem and his words said there is a mortal blow to all Holocaust deniers.
We must remember the people who committed these atrocities were not Christians. The Pope has gone a long way to make peace in this volatile region the same as he did to destroy communism in Eastern Europe. I think he is to be admired in having the courage to try to bring about peace wherever he goes, unlike some other people who try to provoke restlessness - like Dr.R.A.Coxall.
People demanding "apology" need to remember that the Holocaust was not the act of the Catholic Church. Indeed, the church was despised and persecuted by the Nazis, too, who hated it for the same reasons they hated the Jews: because they were alien importation's into the pristine Aryan nation.
Why do the majority of Jews constantly make out that they are the only people in the history of mankind to have ever had anything wrong done to them? NO race or creed on this Earth has a monopoly on suffering, or on bigotry for that matter. As for the Pope's comments on Palestinian rights etc, I wholeheartedly agreed with them.
He is an inspiration and a model for reconciliation
of the human race.
I have started doing the same gestures in my
own life by trying to follow the Popes example
of building back the bridges in broken relationships
at a personal and corporal level.
I think that the Pope's visit to Israel has other hidden agendas. The history of the Catholic Church has been full of manipulative dealings in order to gain control or power, although nowadays it is done more subtly. Apologies are easily spoken out but they must be backed by actions, repentance and forgiveness must be specific in order that full restoration and healing can take place.
I think the Pope has done a good job, and is trying hard to make a difference without upsetting anyone, but, I believe that the Church's approval of Israel as a state is wrong, no matter what anybody says, Israel DID in fact invade other people's countries and they did force millions of innocent people out of their nation
It is unusual but not surprising that the Jewish people only consider themselves with regards to being victims of persecution. Although the Pope has condemned the Holocaust, he has also acknowledged the plight of a nation the Palestinian's. Will we see an apology given to the Palestinians for the human rights abuses committed by the same government that seeks an apology from the Catholic Church.
The Pope's apology manifests the human and fragile face of the Catholic Church.
I wonder why the Pope has been criticised for his apology for Christianity's sins against the Jews. I have seen no similar apology forthcoming from the other Christian Churches, who equally must share the blame. Also, to my fellow Scot Dr. R. A. Coxall: which bigoted and antiquated religion do you belong to, that gives you the right to condemn Catholicism. The criticisms that can be thrown at Catholicism I have found are equally compelling against not only the whole of Christianity, but at religion in general. At least the Pope is doing something toward reconciliation and belief.
I don't believe that anything the Pope says will satisfy the Jews. And if the Pope does ever apologise for the Holocaust, something that the Catholic Church had nothing to do with, there would be an immediate demand from the Jews for financial compensation.
To make peace is not simply about no longer rattling guns. Peace worthy of the name demands a reconciliation of heart and mind, a discovery of the common humanity of the other. Such a step demands a deep humility, a deep inner strength. This Pope John Paul has displayed in abundance as he has taken several steps which are truly historic. No other faith leader has done so much to bring reconciliation between peoples of faith in the long history of humanity. It is deeply moving, marking a new era of hope through the true greatness of this man.
I don't think that the Pope's visit to Yad Vashem provides any equity with the visit to the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. Yad Vashem represents the Holocaust, which was the worst crime ever committed, genocide on such a large scale.
Whether or not the Catholic Church did or did not actively try to save Jews during the Holocaust, the teachings of the Catholic Church have undoubtedly fuelled anti-Semitic feelings in Europe for centuries, contributing to the atmosphere which made the Holocaust possible. For this matter, the Church must ask forgiveness for its sins.
Brett Levi, USA
Is the Pope asking for forgiveness for the past sins only. How about
making promises not to do it again and keeping them. What about
stopping the forced conversions with use of money.
I think that the Pope is in a no win situation. It seems to me that both sides are trying to use and manipulate him for their own political ends. He has expressed his desire to be nothing more than a pilgrim on this trip. He can't support one side without offending the other, but on the whole I think that he has achieved a reasonable balance.
He has supported the right of the Palestinian people to have their own homeland and has expressed his concern over their treatment by Israel. He has warmly embraced Israel as a state in its own right and acknowledged and asked for forgiveness for the 2000 years of persecution toward Jews from Christians.
Ryan Hobson, England
I think the Pope's visit is important for many reasons. Certainly, recognising the sins of the past and being sorry for then is very important. But, what I think is more important is the Pope's presence in Israel. After nearly 2000 years he is saying this is the State of Israel, the home of the Jewish people, forever.
It was a good start but it was not enough. Persecution of the Jews is deep routed in Christian theology. From the beginning of the Catholic Church to the establishment of Israel the church has encouraged or kept silent when Jews have been attacked. It will take more than a belated apology to start to repair the damage of 2000 years.
According to Martin Gilbert's book "The Holocaust" during WWII a polish priest harboured refugees from Auschwitz and also told a Catholic couple to bring up a Jewish baby they had rescued as a Jew. The priest later went on to become Pope John Paul II. Those calling on him to go further than his recent apology on the Holocaust should be aware that he has already risked his life on this issue.
Alan Cubbon, UK
Who gives a fig? He's the head of an antiquated, bigoted, outdated church that frankly hardly anyone in this country believes in any more. He's practically an antique himself and the sooner we lose the RC church as an institution the better.
I have to say that I find it strange that the pope felt he had to apologise for the 'Christian' treatment of the Jews. When will the Jews be apologising for their treatment of the Orthodox Christians in Israel?
He could have hardly done better.
Despite I don't agree with all the decisions of this present Pope, I must say that he is being courageous and giving a step forward to stop all this hatred between religions, races and countries. Forgiving and asking for forgiveness is the only way to bury the past and create peace and hope for the future.
It is difficult to say whether, the Pope's apology is enough, but what is evident, is that is has come out of the hiding place. What is making his confession tougher, is what the Jews are asking for. They are right in a way. But there is no way in which Pope can handle the sins of Roman Catholic Church alone.
Perhaps the Pope can now come back home to Europe and likewise try and be a little bit more sensitive on matters such as abortion and homosexuality.
The Pope's apology should be buttressed with financial assistance from the World Church Council for rehabilitating the living and dead are crucial for healing the wounded memories. Having called for Palestinian homeland, Pope John Paul should encourage his Church to help start rebuilding that "shattered Homeland." And never again will the human blood be shed on the Holy land, and on behalf of Jesus Christ/Allah.
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria
To the Jews he won't have said enough and Christians will probably say he has. In evolutionary terms it's nice to see religions make progress, but a fair few more generations are required before peace between them.
It is a good step
that for the first time in the history
Pope has expressed his 'sadness'
of Jews by Christians throughout history. But why
did it take so long? Well it will at least help to
cover wounds superficially. But for deep seated
roots of the cause can be removed if
similar good thoughts are brought
into practice. Then only slowly
and steadily these wounds will start healing.
Of course it is good that the pope is showing greater tolerance and understanding towards other religions. As a religious pluralist, I see this as a step in the right direction. I can't help wondering if this move means more in the West than it does in the Middle East. How important is the view of the Catholic Church where Judaism and Islam predominate? The cynic in me wonders whether the Pope's sorrow at the Catholic Church's silence in WWII will be reflected by statements of condemnation of the oppressive regimes in many predominantly Catholic countries today. The Pope has so far been notoriously silent about the activities of many South American countries.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Israelis look for Papal apology
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