Tracing popes journey, relations to Israel on Net

His trip will include state arrival and departure ceremonies, meetings with the president, prime minister and chief rabbis, visits to Yad Vashem and the Western Wall — plus official meetings in Palestinian-held areas. Along the way, his every word and gesture will be scrutinized for religious and political repercussions.

Last April, Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon invited the pope to pay an official visit during the country's millennium celebrations. Sharon thanked the pope for his relationship with the Jewish people, combating anti-Semitism and promoting human rights.

Read about the meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' site at

Not all Israelis share Sharon's enthusiasm about the pope's pilgrimage. Time magazine summarized the general ambivalence toward the trip in its article "Israel to Pope: Welcome — Now Go Home."

The visit may pack a lot of public relations value, the article asserted, but "the history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church makes Israelis deeply resentful of the pope. Despite his efforts to rectify some of the wrongs, many Jews believe official Catholic attitudes contributed directly to the Holocaust, and that the church hasn't made an adequate apology." Read the Time article at,2960,36356-101991220,00.html

Those feelings haven't been helped in recent weeks with February's Vatican-Palestinian agreement, which strongly condemned Israel's hold over all of Jerusalem as "morally and legally unacceptable." A Jerusalem Post article can be found at

Officially, the country is going all-out to welcome the pope. A tent city for 6,000 is being built in the Galilee, roads are being leveled to provide a smooth, level path to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and total infrastructure costs will likely approach $6 million. And from arrival until departure, Israel's Shin Bet will provide the pope's security. Read a story from Ha'aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, at

One person credited with playing a key role in shaping the pope's views on Israel is his Jewish childhood friend Jerzy Kluger.

The two enjoyed a close relationship in Wadowice, Poland, in the 1930s and then re-established their friendship in the 1960s. Check out the story on the Canadian Friends/International Christian Embassy Jerusalem's Web site at

When Karol Wojtyla was named pope in 1978, he stunned the world by granting his first papal audience to Kluger and his family. Since then, Kluger has become an informal intermediary whose actions helped lead the Vatican to grant Israel formal diplomatic relations in 1994. Read the agreement's text at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs site at

Some observers have suggested that Kluger's relationship with the pope was a major impetus for the Vatican's 1998 document "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah." Peruse the document at a Web site dedicated to Jewish-Christian relations at

An article such as this one cannot cover in detail Israel's contacts with the pope nor the Vatican's historical relationship with the Jews. For more related documents, see:

*American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise's site at

*Arab American Roman Catholic Community's site at

*Vatican's official site at

Despite Israel's efforts to make him feel at home, the pope will notice one difference during his trip.

While in Jerusalem, he will have to do his waving from a Chevrolet Suburban. The "popemobile" is just too wide to negotiate the narrow streets of the Old City. Read an Associated Press article at

Mark Mietkiewicz is a Toronto-based television producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the Jewish Internet. His columns alternate with those of James D. Besser. Mietkiewicz can be reached at [email protected]