During a working breakfast with ambassadors and journalists, held this Tuesday in Rome, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, Zion Evrony, said Pope Francis’ trip to his country will be very positive, and will give a strong impulse to the inter-religious dialogue and peace in the region.
On Sunday, May 25, the Pope will begin his visit to Israel. It will be a new cornerstone of historic importance, not only in relations between Israel and the Holy See, but also between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people,“ he said.
The meeting was organized by Mediatrends, a Spanish foundation for the Social Promotion of Culture.
Asked by ZENIT about the significance of a Pope accompanied on his trip by a Muslim Sheik and a Rabbi, ambassador Evrony thought it was very positive.
“I think this gesture is very important to promote the inter-religious dialogue, which is the basis of mutual understanding for reconciliation and peace,” he said, adding that “the inter-religious dialogue can also make room for political understanding. The “trip of a Pope accompanied by a Muslim religious leader and a Rabbi, namely, with the leader of the Catholic Church and, therefore, three representatives of the three great Monotheist religions, will have a fundamental impact in the Holy Land,” he added.
Answering the Argentine ambassador to the Holy See, Juan Pablo Cafiero, on the impact of the visit of a Latin American Pope to Israel, the Israeli diplomat reminded that he “comes from a land in which he had already visited a synagogue before being Pope. And he had already created relations with the Jewish community in Argentina, and participated in a television program with Rabbi Skorka,” Moreover,“the personal experience of each Pope has an influence on the relation, style and nature of the visit.”
Of the visit of the three Popes to Israel, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, all Europeans, he focused on John Paul II “who grew up in a city close to Krakow in which there was an important Jewish community; he had Jewish friends and was able to see with his own eyes the horror of the Holocaust. He was in a city close to Auschwitz and this was important in his relation with the Jewish community, a relation that already began with John XXIII.”
He also recalled that “Pope Francis was a witness of two attacks in Argentina, one on the embassy of Israel, and the other on the Jewish Mutual, and he always had a sense of empathy and identified himself with the suffering of the Jewish people.” He added that before he was Pope, Francis “made a statement against terrorism, had spoken against the use of violence in the name of religion and in the name of God, which he described as unacceptable.”
The Israeli ambassador recalled that Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was in Israel in October of 1973, when he was Provincial of the Jesuits, and that he visited Galilee for two days and then went to Jerusalem. However, the Yom Kippur conflict obliged him to stay in the hotel, so he “he spent much time reading the Bible but did not have much opportunity to visit Israel.”
Answering the ambassador of Costa Rica to the Holy See, Fernando Sanchez Campos, on the peace process, ambassador Evrony admitted that “at this moment the peace process is halted,” and that the Pope is a very great spiritual leader, a messenger of peace and has as the central subject of his addresses and homilies “the struggle for peace.”
He said that “when he arrives in Israel, he will have to speak with the religious leaders, with the community of Christians, which has several thousand people, and his message of peace will have a very strong and central impact in his addresses because he feels that “religious leaders can help to reduce the animosity that exists between the two sides in the conflict and contribute to build bridges.”
In regard to the inter-religious dialogue, he added that “his visit will bring positive results, fifty years after the Nostra Aetate document, when we began to think of our relations with the Holy See.” And he described this visit as “an opportunity to seek new ways to improve the relation of dialogue.”