Yisca Harani, an expert on Christianity in the Holy Land, said she was disappointed with the visit. While the pope arrived to celebrate peace, he was instead greeted by two angry parties who tried to pull him in their direction.“I expected someone stronger. I expected some strong words of encouragement or a real push,” she said. “I found a frail pope. There were very few moments when I saw his face lit up. From the moment he landed he looked afraid.”
Well what are we to make of Pope Francis' visit? Was he timid? Afraid? Frail? Or has this 'expert' missed something?
In a snippet of video taken as the Pope was walking to his plane at Ben Gurion airport he is caught in mid conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu is beaming, and expressing his obvious surprise and excitement that the Pope had actually read his father's book. What book? International best seller? New Your Times list? Well, not exactly. It was a historical treatise on... the Spanish Inquisition and its treatment of... the Jews. The Times of Israel reported back in December 2013 that the PM had given the book as a gift to the Pope when he met him at the Vatican. He obviously didn't actually think the Pope would read it, given the elation and genuine chuffed expression. The pope said twice, 'its a good book', underscoring the sense of respect. It had obviously won Netanyahu round as an admirer, which is no mean feat. It gives a tantalising glimpse as to the way the Pope works, and of what his approach is actually achieving.
I was at the Mass in Bethlehem when he invited President Abbas and President Peres to come and pray with him for peace in his own home in the Vatican. To be honest the sound system was so bad I couldn't hear anything the Pope said, and there was no translation into any other language so few people picked it up at that moment. But the invitation was issued, and Abbas walked up the steps of the Papal sanctuary to exchange the sign of peace with the pope. Previously the two men had hugged when they met at the Presidential palace. Again, a warm, genuine rapport.
Read Ian's full piece here:
The Genius of Pope Francis in the Holy Land