POPE FRANCIS MAKES PILGRIMAGES WHERE EVERYTHING STARTED
FR. PAWEL RYTEL-ANDRIANIK
The visit in the Holy Land is the first foreign apostolic visit planned during the pontificate of pope Francis. The Days of the Youth in Brazil in 2013 were the realization of plans of Benedict XVI.
During three days, from 24 to 26 May, pope Francis will visit Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Autonomy. The schedule includes, among the others, the Holy Mass on the stadium in Ammana, a prayer in the place of Jesus’ Baptism, the visit in Yad Vash and in front of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. What is also important, are meetings with the supreme authorities. However, the direct reason for the visit of the Holy Father just in 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Paul VI with Atenagoras, the patriarch of Constantinopole who is considered as the first one among others in the orthodox Church. After half a century pope Francis is to meet with Bartlomiej I, the patriarch of Constantinopole, in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. This ecumenical meeting will be attended also by representatives of other Christian religions, in order to pray together in the place of Jesus’ resurrection.
One can feel atmosphere of expectation for pope Francis as the one who arrives to all inhabitants of the Holy Land, regardless of their nationality or religion. Christians are getting prepared through the novena on the days of 14-22 May, divided into three parts of three days each: lent, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a prayer for the unity of the Christians. At that time a prayer is organized in the Churches like: Greek-orthodox, Ethiopian orthodox, Coptic orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Melkite Catholic, Armenian (Catholic and orthodox), Syrian (Catholic and orthodox), Maronite and Latin.
Within preparations for the papal visit, the Israeli Parliament honoured pope John XXIII with the unanimously, expressing thanks to him for saving thousands of people of Jewish nationality during holocaust, when he was a nuncio in Stambul and for his Catholic – Jewish dialogue.
Fr. Piotr Zelazko, a parish priest of the community of the Catholics of Hebrew language in Jerusalem, he said: - Enthusiasm of expectation is visible among parishioners, who will participate in the Holy Mass with the Holy Father in Bethlehem. The visit of Pope Francis is ‘the sign of hope’ for the permanent peace in Israel, whose citizens are the majority of my parish including over 120 people. A Palestinian Omar Atallah admits: - Yesterday I was talking to my friend George who is an orthodox believer. He perceives this visit not only as a meeting of the pope with the Catholics but also as strengthening for all Christians in the Holy Land. Moreover, the Pope also arrives in order to meet with us – believers of Islam. It is a very important visit for everybody.
On this occasion we must also mention, that there used to be protests before the papal visit but in fact they are incomparable in relation to millions of people who are waiting for this visit.
The Holy Father is welcomed in the Holy Land not only as the head of the state and a superior of the most popular religion of the world but also as….Francis. Many people heard about him in mass media and admire his uncompromised attitude, and his simple and even modest standard of life. Many people also see a non-accidental relation between the name of the Holy Father and his Franciscan attitude towards the man. So, it is supposed that the visit of pope Francis may have far-going consequences, similarly as the visit to the Holy Land of his namesake from Assisi.