- During his upcoming trip to the Holy Land (24-26 May), which will mark the 50th
anniversary of Pope Paul VI's historic visit to the region, Pope Francis might
use the Cadillac used by his predecessor.
The idea comes
from the Maronite Patriarchate, which made the proposal to the Latin Patriarch
of Jerusalem, Mgr Fouad Twal, this according
to sources in Bkerke.
proposal might not be accepted, the car, which is in good condition, is currently
undergoing renovation at a specialised repair shop in Lebanon.
At the time of Pope
Paul VI's visit in January 1964, the car was provided to the pope by the then Jordanian
The king, aware
of the symbolic value of a car used by the head of the universal Church, decided
at the end of the papal pilgrimage, to donate it to the Maronite Patriarchate, which,
in his eyes, represented the largest Catholic community in the East.
apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Edmond Farhat, said that "the Maronite
Patriarchate greatly appreciated the king's gesture and accepted the car with
gratitude. Patriarch el-Meouchi was careful when he used it and the car has
been treated lovingly."
years, it is still in good condition at the Maronite Patriarchal See," the
nuncio said. "Although some of the patriarchs used during their time in office,
it is still in excellent conditions."
There was even a
moment, we now know, when someone proposed to sell it to a collector, but Patriarch
al-Rahi, as one might imagine, said no.
By keeping it
with so much care, Maronite leaders have kept alive the memory of Pope Paul VI's
visit as well as the historical and spiritual dimension it has had for the
On that occasion,
Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras exchanged the kiss of peace in
Jerusalem, an ecumenical event whose memory and consequences still endure.
That meeting led
to a joint statement by the pope and Athenagoras, with which they lifted their
mutual excommunications of 1054.
scenes, King Hussein of Jordan is also said to have given the pope a "royal"
welcome as required by the occasion, and that, as an experienced pilot, he performed
aerobatics as a token of greeting.
trip to Palestine," Mgr Farhat said, "opened new horizons that no one could foresee.
And the car, the main means of his movements - the Pope also travelled to
Nazareth and Bethlehem - is part of the living memory and the
material remembrance of the spiritual movement that was beginning."
later, the historical situation has changed. Jerusalem and the West Bank have
been under Israeli control since 1967 and after the 1981 assassination attempt
against Pope John Paul II, armoured cars have replaced limousines, but the
thirst for peace remains
the Holy Land as the successor of Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis will renew the momentum
given by Paul VI to ecumenical relations and to the quest for unity, which is more
indispensable than ever."
"How a beautiful
it would be if, 50 years later, the Cadillac,
with such great symbolic value, could be used. And what joy, it would be for
the Maronite Church to be the faithful and watchful custodian of the past and
the bearer of so valuable and dynamic a future."