Pope Francis in the Holy Land: the "politics" of prayer
Rome (AsiaNews ) - Pope Francis has already returned from his trip to the Holy Land, but the images of left and gestures he made are seeds that could bear fruit in time.
Already, Francis' invitation to Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, to come to his "home" in the Vatican for a meeting of prayer for peace between Israel and Palestine is a milestone in this pilgrimage. And the fact that the Israeli president and his counterpart of the Palestinian Authority have already accepted immediately suggests an unexpected touch of success for this trip.
Policy experts may laugh at this invitation: prayer for peace between Israel and Palestine? After so many prayers in the past? And after all the failures in political negotiations, willed by more powerful personalities than Francis, such as Clinton, Bush, Obama? On what rational basis can hopes for the resumption of dialogue be rekindled given the fact that with each passing day obstacles accumulate on both sides, while Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem multiply, and Palestinians show no willingness to ensure Israel's security?
The Pope said that the idea of two States, Israel and Palestine, should not remain a dream but become a reality. But many wonder if, in reality, the hope for peace is the vain and impossible dream and whether the only option for now is to settle for short temporary truces and cease- fires before to avoid the outbreak of a blazing war that could engulf the entire region.
In short, the "political" value of the prayer appears truly minimal.
Yet two images from among many remain impressed on hearts and minds: Pope Francis' prayer and caress which touched two walls: the "Wailing Wall" (the Western Wall) and the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, the so-called "Wall of Shame". The pontiff approached the first after having carressed it in silence, he slipped the prayer of the Our Father into a crevasse between the ancient stones, close to the heart of the Holy of Holies. The same thing happened in Bethlehem: a sudden and unplanned gesture, the Pope approached the barrier near Rachel's Tomb and caressed the wall that causes so many divisions, death and humiliation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In both cases, the hand that caressed the wall awaited the coming of the Messiah, the only One who can bring peace. At the same time, this same hand urged for this to take place soon. The "political" value of prayer is this: it is leaving space for God to act and in really involving oneself with what is being asked for. In this way, the man who asks becomes the first sign that the invocation is coming to pass, starting from the heart.
Herein also lies the power of the Pope's invitation to the two presidents, to welcome them to his "home": to offer one's home means making oneself available, one's time, one's life in order to foster a similar openness in others. All of this is a judgment on the way in which "political" dialogue between Israel and Palestine have been conducted thus far: saying one thing in words and doing another behind backs, exhausting mutual trust, to arrive at the paralysis and gangrene of our times.
The pope's prayer - and he repeated in several speeches - says that peace is possible on condition that we become completely involved in a comprehensive way, to risk one's life and not just a political project aimed at final victory. Only on this condition can the paralysis and gangrene - which seems destined to overtake all international politics - be healed: by recognizing that the God of all - Muslims, Jews, Christians - will becoming involved in ushering His coming.
Christian unity is essential in this task. The heart of this pilgrimage was the embrace between Francis and Bartholomew, between the Church of the East and West. Again, there are many "walls" posed by this or that confession, first and foremost, the Russian Orthodox Church. Some might say that the meeting at the Holy Sepulchre between the successors of Peter and Andrew was a spiritual interlude among many "political" gestures. In fact, it was in the sepulchre that the real shift occurred, the fall of the first and most important wall, that of death . As Bartholomew stated , love casts out all fear and Christians who love one another become "an example to the whole world". This was echoed by Pope Francis: " Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the basis of our hope! Let us not deprive the world of the joyful message of the Resurrection!."