Growing Vatican interest in Israel
On May 23, in a message for the hundredth anniversary of the Synagogue of Rome, John Paul II repeated his strong desire to make peace with the Jews.Whichâaccording to Italian Vaticanist Sandro Magisterâmust have some relation to the growing Vatican interest in Israel, as well as to the current attempt to cool the pro-Palestinian enthusiasm of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem.
But the shift also has demographic motives, since the number of Arab Christians in the Holy Land has been continually dwindlingânotwithstandingthe Vatican effort to keep them from emigratingâwhile the non-Arab Christians who live in Israel have become ever more numerous:
During the 1990âs, more than 200,000 of them came from Russia, Ukraine, and other Slavic countries. Their origins are Jewish, but they are baptized. Many of them were born into Orthodoxy, but easily become Catholic. The Church of Rome sees in them the future of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Meanwhile, writes Magister:
the Vatican has become more severe toward pro-Palestinian activism. Franciscan Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, who became famous as the spokesmen of the guerillas who occupied the basilica of Bethlehem in the spring of 2002, is on the list of those to be purged.
Last but not least, the shift has political motives:
Last autumn, when Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran left his post as foreign minister, relations between the Vatican and Israel were terrible. With his successor, Giovanni Lajolo, and with the new Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben-Hur, there are some glimmers of hope. The restoration of official negotiations is imminent. And one of the points close to being resolved has as its object the Room of the Cenacle, in Jerusalem.