“He did nearly everything ‘right.’ Kindness and the willingness to be a messenger of peace…topping it off with an invitation to Simon Peres and Abu Mazen to come to Rome to pray and seek peace. Who could oppose this?” Thus begins the observations made in a newsletter by Mr. Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director of the International Christian Zionist Center. He is not alone in his concerning observations from the Pope’s three-day visit to Israel this week.
“Alas, the Golden Age of Catholic-Jewish relations seems to have come to an end during Francis’ visit to the Promised Land this week.” Jerusalem Post opinion columnist Caroline Glick notes several worrisome incidents worthy of acknowledgement.
While on this visit Pope Francis greeted and kissed the hands of Holocaust survivors and visited a memorial for Israeli victims of terrorism, the JP columnist took issue with “his symbolic embrace of some of the worst anti-Jewish calumnies of our times, and his seeming adoption of replacement theology during his homily in Bethlehem.”
Photo op location choice is telling
A spontaneous stop to pray at the security wall between Israel and Gaza also created controversy.
It was the section of wall that he chose for this photo op that is so disheartening. “The graffiti on the section of the barrier Francis stopped at reinforces his anti-Semitic position. One of the slogans called for the embrace of the BDS* campaign” and others shouted in spray painted letters “Free Palestine!” and accused Israel of apartheid. Perhaps the intention of Pope Francis was to sincerely pray for peace between the opposite sides of the wall, but given the section of wall chosen and the anti-Jewish writings speaking loudly from it, the disparagement of Israel he associated himself with is extremely troubling.
When a sermon was given in his presence “likening Israelis to King Herod” “who fear peace more than war and are prepared to continue killing” the Jerusalem Post columnist claimed that “rather than condemn these remarks, Francis echoed them.”
Also highly concerning is the fact that Francis called the leader of Palestinians' Fatah political party, Mahmoud Abbas, a “man of peace.” When Abbas called for Israel to release all Palestinian terrorists, Pope Francis said nothing.
About this exchange, van der Hoeven writes:
Bethlehem - the city where not only Jesus the son of David was born, but where David himself was born; a city every Bible believer knows to be part of Judea which - as the Gospels explain - belongs to Israel. Here in the city of His Lord's birth, the city of the Messiah and King of Israel, the Pope embraces a murderer of the Israeli athletes in Munich - a man who accompanied his fellow terrorist, Yasser Arafat, throughout his blood-soaked years - and calls him "a man of peace;" he who, after thousands of hours of negotiations, still refuses to accept Israel in whatever future borders as a Jewish democratic State.
Before Abbas has even arrived at the place where, after all these years of hatred and war, he is ready to accept and live in peace with a Jewish democratic State, he already receives two things from the head of one billion Christians: the accolade of being a 'man of peace,' and recognition that he is already the president of a state, the State of Palestine.
Blaming Israel is becoming popular
While on the surface, the visit of the leader of the world’s largest Christian religion seems to encourage peacemaking between Israel and Palestinians, there are significant red flags of caution raised from it. Things are heating up and while the world calls out for peace it is becoming the fashion to blame Israel for its absence. Anti-Semitic attitudes are on the rise in the Western world, ranging from blatantly violent attacks on Jewish People – such as in Kansas City, Brussels, and Paris recently – to a more subtle media-driven distaste for Israel.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for Israel, and Jewish People all around the world. They are still God’s Chosen People. His covenants with them, promises to them, and inheritances given to them are everlasting. His People need our prayers and God promised Abraham, the father of the nation, that He would bless those who bless him (Genesis 12:3). Join us in praying for true peace to come to the People of Israel.
*BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” and is a movement to pressure and hurt Israel economically.
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