With Pope Francis returned to Rome, he has hailed his trip to the Holy Land as a 'great gift to the Church,' while an Israeli journalist has been highy critical of the visit, reports The Irish Times.
Speaking at his weekly public audience, he said: 'I thank God for this visit. He guided me through that blessed land where Jesus was present and where there occurred events of fundamental importance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam . . .'
Thanking his Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian hosts, the Pope insisted the major reason for his visit had been to meet with the Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew. His joint prayer with Bartholomew and with the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, he said, indicated that these Christian churches should all 'walk forward together.'
The Pope also acknowledged a major reason for the trip had been to 'encourage the road to peace' in the region. For that reason, he had invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, 'both men of peace,' to come to Rome to pray with him, adding:
'And please, I ask you not to leave us alone, you pray too, pray so that the Good Lord will grant us peace in that blessed land.'
Even as the Pope was expressing that wish, there were indications that not everyone sees him as a neutral peacebroker in the conflict-ridden Middle East. Reflecting on his visit, Tuesday's Jerusalem Post said that 'Francis is leading the church in a distressingly anti-Jewish direction.'
In particular, Israel's authoritative daily was critical of his decision to stop in front of the Israeli-built dividing wall between Israel and Palestine.
Read full article: Trip to Holy Land was a great gift for church, says pope (The Irish Times)
Our world: Pope Francis's unfriendly visit (The Jerusalem Post)
Pope on Holy Land visit: A great grace (Vatican Radio)
Pope seeks closer ties among Christians, Jews and Muslims (The Catholic Leader)
Francis makes emotional visit to Holocaust memorial (The Tablet)
Pope to Rabbis: together we can contribute to the cause of peace (Vatican Radio)