Pope Francis’ recent three-day trip to the Holy Land left me breathless. Out-of-the-box reframing, powerful symbols, and total attention that feels like love. The Pope wants to make peace between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. As many know, they’ve been at odds since 1054 when a formal split occurred. Orthodox Christians control the site of the Holy Sepulcher (where Jesus was allegedly buried). An ecumenical worship service? Impossible. The Orthodox would never allow a Roman Catholic mass to be celebrated there.
No problem. Who needs a mass? The Pope proposes they simply pray together. Done. The highest leaders of two ancient traditions chant, kneel, pray, read Scripture together in Latin, Arabic, and Greek – together, for more than an hour — and the whole world sees it. This historic split moves one step closer to being healed. But the Pope has a bigger agenda. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying unsuccessfully for nine months to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks.
No problem. The Pope invites the two countries’ Presidents (Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas) to come to the Vatican to pray together – a Jew, a Muslim, and the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics. They accept immediately, and the three will meet in Rome on June 6, 2014 (True, as head of government Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has more authority, and Peres’ term of office ends in July 2014. But still, it seems like a step forward.)
Let’s take a deeper look at solving the big question. How has the Pope gained the trust of both sides?
In Palestine, Francis prayed at the wall between Israel and the West Bank– for people on both sides to be safe. In Manger Square he prayed for children exposed to violence and the hardships of being a refugee. In Tel Aviv he condemned anti-Semitism, speaking sorrowfully of a shooting the prior day at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that killed four, including two Israelis. He also visited Yad Vashem, a memorial dedicated to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Everything that the Pope does speaks love. Two photos in the Washington Post show him greeting Peres and Abbas. In each he moves in, close, putting both his hands on their arms — as near a hug as you could get without a real one. He looks directly into their eyes, with a smile of regard and acceptance.
Time will reveal whether the Pope’s trip to the Holy Land bears fruit. But I’m already in awe of his ability to reframe and to use symbols in a way that tell a powerful story. And I want to remember, when I’m tempted to take sides, love is not a zero sum game.
Beyond Dispute Associates
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.