by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
Pope Francis’ three-day visit to the Holy Land beginning Saturday will be full of opportunities and challenges. On one level, like any pilgrim, he comes to pray in the Holy Land where Jesus walked and lived. But as leader of the Catholic community, he also has four goals that go beyond those of a typical pilgrim.
The first is ecumenical. During the visit, the pope will meet with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I.
It is hard for us who now take ecumenism for granted to realize how historic was that 1964 meeting, which led to the lifting of the mutual excommunications that had stood in place for over 900 years. This scandalous division included hatred and bloodshed, and the wounds are still tender.
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