Page 6, 10th January 1964

10th January 1964
Page 6
Page 6, 10th January 1964 — The Pope in the Holy Land

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The Pope in the Holy Land




HOUR Fisher THE Pope's plane touched down twenty minutes late at Amman Airport, which was thronged with people. Archbishop Zanini, Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem, went aboard, and after a few minutes

the Pope came out, dressed in white.

This was the signal for the huge crowd to break into vociferous cheering. A flock of doves, symbolising peace. was released as King Hussein greeted the Pope at the foot of the gangway.

Two little girls came forward to present the Pope with an olive branch and a bouquet of flowers and the Pope was then introduced to the Prime Minister and other dignitaries.

King Hussein welcomed the Pope on behalf of the whole Jor

, danian family, Moslem and Christian, and offered deep gratitude and a sincere welcome to "a man of God and a great leader in the service of peace and humanity".

Delirious In reply, the Pope said he had come on a bumble pilgrimage to the places sanctified by the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

He said he would pray for that peace which the world could not give and which Christ had promised to his disciples and to those who fulfilled his commandments. He said he ardently desired the peace and prosperity of the people of Jordan and of the whole world.

Shortly afterwards the Papal convoy was formed and drove off on the way to Jerusalem. The first stop was at the Abdullah bridge over the River Jordan where the Pope got out and climbed down a stairway to pray near the place where, according to tradition, John the Baptist baptised Jesus.

After standing in silent meditation for a while, the Pope turned and raised his hands to bless the crowd.

Then as his car started off on the next leg of the trip, King Hussein's helicopter flew overhead as it was to do again later when the Papal convoy reached Jerusalem.

The convoy drove down the road to Jerusalem to the bastioned Damascus Gate, where a crowd the like of which Jerusalem must r4ver have seen before was waiting for the Pope.

As the Papal car drove slowly through the crowd they went almost delirious with excitement. The police and security forces were ilrnost overwhelmed and succeeded in preserving some semblance of order only by driving their jeeps time and again at the crowd.

The Pope could not alight at the appointed place and was im prisoned in his car for almost twenty minutes before the troops were able to clear a path for him to reach the Damascus Gate.

There was utter confusion and some minutes of real danger when the Pope was entering the gate and starting on the long walk along the Via Dolorosa. He started at the third station—Jesus falls the first time—as bells pealed out all over the city.

He made his way slowly through the narrow, thronged streets gay with bunting, flags, photographs of the Pope and the King and many-coloured lights. Soldiers almost 'fought with the crowd to make a path for him and in sonic cases they had to hit the crowd with their rifles.

The Pope made his way slowly up the hill of Calvary, stopping at some of the stations on the way. Crowds kept pressing in on him from either side and as he passed under the narrow arches. forming part of the houses, the people dropped flowers and pieces of palm on his head.

The route is quite a difficult climb especially in the circumstances in which the Pope walked it and he looked strained and exhausted as he entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the last five of the stations are located, kissing a stone at the entrance.

The arrangements here were also chaotic with no one in overall charge. Police. army, clergy and Vatican officials were completely unable to control the crowds of cameramen, journalists, television crews and ecclesiastics of all kinds. Greek Orthodox. Coptic, Armenian clergy Joined the throng to see the Pope.

He entered the Church by the left of the twin doors the righthand one being blocked up since the time of Saladin. The door was opened to him by the Moslem doorkeepers appointed by Saladin in 1244 because of rivalries between the different Christian sects.

A ear panic

Two families enjoy the doorkeeper privilege, one of them holding the key, the other enrusted with opening the door.

The Tc Deum was intoned as the Pope entered and he walked slowly through the crowd, being almost lifted off his feet at times, to an altar erected in front of the Holy Sepulchre itself.

He wiped his face and head with a handkerchief and looked strained and obviously disturbed by the unseemly tumult and the antics of photographers, who climbed everywhere. even on the Holy Sepulchre itself, for a better vantage point.

The Pope then vested and began to say Low Mass. From my position about twelve feet away I could clearly see the tension in his face as he endeavoured to keep an air of recollection in all the din and fuss.

Shortly after the consecration a near-panic was caused when cables carrying television arclights caught fire.

Arabs and Italians caused great commotion as they tried to put the fire out with the headdress of an Arab Legion soldier wielded on the top of the silver-headed staff of a Greek Orthodox prolate but finally a fire-extinguisher was brought and the small blaze was put Out.

All the time, the Pope maintained an air of quiet prayerfulness which was most impressive, Eventually, he walked into the Holy Sepulchre itself bearing as an offering a golden olive branch. He spent about five minutes praying in the narrow chamber lit by dozens of votive damps.

There was more chaos as the Pope came out of the Holy Sepulchre and walked up the steep flight of steps to the site of the Crucifixion. Here he visited the traditional spots where Christ was stripped of his garments and nailed to the cross and he prayed for a time at the spot where the Cross is believed to have been placed. into the ground.

The. spot is marked by a hole surrounded by a silver disc. At one side is a rent in the rock, said in have been caused by the earthquake which took place when Christ died.

Coming down to leave the Church, the Pope was almost swept away in the surge of the crowd. Arab Legion soldiers had to fight their way through the crowd to form a screen around him. Then the Pope walked down along gaily-decorated streets to the Jaffa Gate of the city, where his 'car was waiting.

Later that night the Pope went to the Convent of St. Anne to return a visit by Patriarch Benediktos, Greek Orthodox Bishop ,of Jerusalem. Benediktos is reputed to he less friendly towards Rome than Patriarch Athenagoras but the Pope's obvious friendliness and sincerity won him over.

The Pope said he wished only peace. tolerance and forgiveness and spoke of the change of climate in our days. He hoped that the Patriarch would help to ease the remaining points of friction.

Patriarch Benediktos gave the Pope a seventh-century Greek Bible which the Pope said he would treasure both because it was the Bible and because of the person who had given it to him.

Pope and Patriarch then shared a glass of Benedictine which the Patriarch said the Pope would have to take because of his (the Patriarch's) name and because the Pope "had Benedictines under him".

Later that night the Pope went to the Church of the Agony in Gethsemane where he spent an hour in prayer and meditation. He knelt in front of the rock which marks the traditional spot where Jesus prayed on the night before he died.

Here again the conditions were chaotic. The doors were closed in the faces of Cardinals Tisserant and Cicognani and only after repeated knocking and shouting were they opened to let the Cardinals in.

Meantime the Pope kept praying earnestly, his great capacity for recollection and piety making a deep impression.

Six lessons from the Gospel text of the agony in the garden were read in Latin. Greek. Arabic, Armenian. Coptic and Ethiopian and the Pope recited the prayers, ending by giving his blessing.

Next morning. Sunday, the Papal convoy left Jerusalem at 7.20 a.m. to begin what was both the most interesting though also the most exhausting day of the three-day visit.

It drove-though in reverse— over the route which Joseph and Mary themselves must have taken when they came up from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register. It covers one of the most important areas, religiously and archaeologically, in the Holy Land and the 'Holy Father most have been well briefed on the sites he passed.

Close to Jerusalem, for example. are El-Jib. the ancient site of Gibeon, where Joshua cornmended the sun to stand still; and Tell en Nesheh, the ancient site of Miapah where Saul was crowned king. He also passed near Birch, the village where Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus was missing.

Off the main highway is Benin. formerly Beth El (The House of God) where Jacob dreamed he saw the ladder ascending into heaven and where Jeroboam had erected the golden calf.

North of Ramallah, the Pope was also shown from his car the four sites of great interest: Jacob's wall. where Jesus met and revealed himself to the woman of Samaria; the tomb of Joseph; the recently excavated ruins of Schechem, one-time capital of Israel; and Gerizim, the sacred mountain of the Samaritans.

Past Jenin is the barbed wire line marking the frontier with Israel and it was opened for the first time since 1948 to let the Papal convoy through, eighty minutes behind schedule.

The President

The long motorcade of 34 vehicles stopped briefly here and then swept on to Megiddo, which is the Biblical site of Armageddon. The convoy drove through the vast wide plain, now green with sprouting corn, which has been a battlefield from time immemorial and is reputed to be the site of the last great battle in the world.

Here the official reception into Israel took place. The Pope was greeted by President Shazar and introduced to the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. In a short speech he said he had come for no reason other than a religious one. He would pray for believers and unbelievers, ificluding the people of the Covenant. He ended with the traditional Hebrew greeting; "Shalom, Shalom".

After a 15-minute stop, the Pope got back into his car and the convoy began the sharp climb. along twisting winding roads to Nazareth.

The town. nestling in a cup in the hills, was gaily decorated for the occasion. A triumphal arch had been erected at the entrance and hunting and flags lined the streets.

The Israeli people's reception of the Pope. though much better organised seemed less warm. The reaction in Israel was one of curiosity mingled with interest in the practical significance of the visit.

Though the authorities stressed that they respected its religious nature. the feeling at the level of the man in the street was that it must mean something in political terms.

The Pope's convoy drove up to the courtyard of the Church of the Annunciation, now being rebuilt over an earlier Crusader foundation to mark the place where the Angel is reputed to have appeared to Mary to announce to her that Ate was to become the mother of Christ.

A fine new Basilica is halffinished here, the hare concrete arches spanning the great sanctuary. it preserves untouched the ruins of the house in which Mary is believed to have lived and the little grotto chapel built on what is reputed to be the actual room in which she was when the Angel a price red.

Two Byzantine pillars mark the places where Mary and the Angel reputedly stood.

In a 15-minute address during his Mass, the Pope spoke of the purity which he said had vanished from the world and which could he restored today only by prayer, virtue and love.

The long motorcade drove through the fertile valley where Jesus and His disciples plucked the ears of corn, via Cana of the first miracle. and past the famous Horn of Hittim. where Saladin in 1187 defeated the Crusaders and won control of the Holy Places, including Jerusalem,

To Magdala

This area is dne of the most strategic positions in this part of the country, with constant traffic from inner Arabia to the Mediterranean. This is considered to be one of the reasons why Jesus chose to live there, since His message would he carried far and wide by the constant stream of travellers and merchants passing that way.

From the road, the Pope could see the shimmering blue lake far below. cradled in the sloping hills. The Sea of Galilee (or Lake of Gennasareth) lies 682 feet below sea level and a sign on the roadside marks the point of sea level.

On the far side of the lake. in Syria, the Pope could see Mount Hermon. • which is never without its snow-peak, and the lakeshore below it, which must have changed very little since Jesus' time.

The convoy passed Magdala, the traditional birthplace of Mary Magdalene, and drove on to Capernaum, once a flourishing town. now marked by the magnificent ruins of a second-century Jewish synagogue. which, perhaps, replaced an earlier one where Jesus began His ministry.

In this area, the Pope visited the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, where a stone under the altar marks the rock on which Jesus is reputed to have laid the five barley loaves and two fishes before the miracle.

Then the convoy moved on a mile round the lake to the lakeside Church of the Primacy. a tiny building perched at the water's edge. The Pope walked down the short avenue to the lake and saw the pre-Christian era steps leading to the harbour where Peter and the other disciples must often have walked.

Inside the Church is the rock on which Christ is reputed to have given Peter the primacy with the instruction: "Feed My lambs: feed My sheep." Coming out, the Pope went down the steps to the lake and washed his hands in it.

Above the lake rises the gentle Slope of the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. The Papal convoy drove up to the octagonal-shaped Church, where the Pope prayed Continued on page 12, col. 3

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