For the record, I greatly admire Pope Francis. I have great respect for him. As far as I’m concerned, Pope Francis is as genuine as they come. He appears not to be trapped by the trappings of his office and his ego is quite unlike that of many of his predecessors, however humble pontiffs of the past may have appeared to be. Here is one Pope who does not go around reassuring others that he feels their pain. Pope Francis is much too occupied in attempting to ease their pain. As far as I’m concerned, Pope Francis is a mentsch.
That being said, I cannot help but wonder why the Pope did not set aside time during his recent visit to meet with Christians who have been uprooted from Bethlehem. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Pope is very much aware of the predicament his faithful find themselves in. Bethlehem, a city of no little importance to Christianity, once boasted a population that was 80% Christian. Ever since the Palestinian Authority was given control over Bethlehem, Christians have constituted a mere 20% of its population. At least one of the previous pontiffs (John Paul II) paid lip service to the plight of the Christians in Bethlehem by telling them: Do not be afraid to preserve Christian presence and Christian heritage in the very place the Savior was born. Why is it that during this most recent trip, Pope Francis pulled a “Bontshe Shveig”?
The Pope must appear to be evenhanded. Yet, as one clergyman to another, from the depth of my soul I tell him that when it comes to politics, there is no such thing as evenhandedness. Each side indicts you of bending over backwards for the enemy. In that the Pope is one who champions the poor and the disabled, I cannot help but wonder why the Pope did not pay a visit to some maimed and disabled Israelis, victims of Arab terrorism. Quite frankly, I would be extremely surprised if the Holocaust victims with whom he met would have objected foregoing the honor, which was theirs, had they known that they would be giving up their allotted time so that the Pope could meet with limbless terrorist victims. To avoid appearing pro-Israel, the Pope could have scheduled time to meet with Palestinian victims, who sustained severe injuries from being used as human shields by Hamas or Fatah. I assure you, the difference would be lost on world leaders, the media as well as the innumerable well-meaning people on this planet who wonder why the Palestinians and the Israelis just can’t learn to get along. After all, in their mindset, a victim is a victim.
Word has it that the Pope was pressured by the Palestinian Authority to make an unscheduled stop at the security barrier erected by Israel. Being the “gutteh neshomeh” he is, the Pope simply could not say no. Big mistake! The Pope must learn to tell the Palestinians as well as the Israelis,
or any other host of countries he is planning to visit, that when it comes to his itinerary, he answers to a higher authority.
Hopefully, the Pope will have gained much from his visit. Hopefully, the Pope will visit Israel again at some future date. Hopefully, the Pope will avoid politics, champion the causes for which he is so well known, and let the one to whom he prays serve as his travel agent. Short of these recommendations, one would do well to ask if that which the Pope hopes to achieve, has a prayer.