Caspari Center Media Review – March 3, 2009
During the week covered by this review, we received 32 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:
3 dealt with Messianic Jews
5 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
23 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
Jewish-Catholic relations continue to be strained as Leon Schlein’s controversial spoof on Jesus and Mary added fuel to the fire. Jewish attitudes to Christianity are being openly investigated, reported in a survey conducted for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations and a lengthy article on Messianic Judaism in the Jerusalem Post.
Jerusalem Post, February 13, 18; Yediot Petach-Tikva, February 20, 2009
Yediot Petach-Tivka reprinted Yedida Peretz’s article which originally appeared in Yediot Yerushalayim (February 13), under the headline “Save us.”
In the light of the expected prisoner exchange designed to return Gila’ad Schalit, some of those who lost family members at the hands of terrorists possibly due to be released were interviewed this week. The Jerusalem Post (February 18) spoke with Heidi Litle, whose fourteen-year-old daughter Abigail was killed in a bus bombing in Haifa in 2003. While she was aware at his sentencing that he might be included in a future prisoner swop, “she did not know how she would feel if that day actually came … Though she doesn’t know whether the terrorist is on the list or not, Litle already knows where she stands. She wrote a letter to the Schalit family to tell them personally that she supported a deal, even if it meant that her daughter Abigail’s murderer would be released … ‘I understand that these prisoners would want to be involved in terror again,’ said Litle … As a bereaved mother, she also knew that her four remaining children could be a target of such an attack. ‘It could happen to me again. I know this more than the people who have not had this happen to them,’ said Litle. Still, she wrote the Schalit family, ‘I am willing to take that risk to have Gilad come home again.’ ‘I am willing to trust the government and the security forces and to pray that it won’t happen again,’ said Litle. She told the Schalit family in her letter, ‘I know what it is like to lose a daughter, and I do not want you to lose a son. He has been gone long enough’ … Abigail’s death had the effect of an atom bomb on their family, said Litle. ‘Everything was completely destroyed,’ said Litle, adding that in the aftermath, ‘you are a survivor picking up the pieces.’ Now, six years later, she said, the family is healing. ‘But each person is different from who they were. There are more smiles, but it is not like it would have been.’ It is because she knew the impact of this loss so deeply that she believed that the government must do everything in its power to free Schalit, she said.” [Editor’s note: Although the Litles are part of the Messianic community in Israel, the article made no mention of this fact.] Larry Derfner contributed a lengthy article entitled “Leap of Faith” to the Jerusalem Post’s Up Front section last week (February 13), in which he looked at several Messianic congregations and gave his opinion regarding the phenomenon of Messianic Judaism: “Despite what most people think, the terms ‘Jews for Jesus’ and ‘Messianic Jews’ are not interchangeable. Jews for Jesus is an organization made up of Messianic Jews who actively proselytize, handing out leaflets and taking out newspaper ads. Their proactive approach makes many if not most Messianic Jews, at least in Israel, uncomfortable … My own impression of the Messianic Jews, though, is that they are a benign bunch – native Israelis and immigrants who usually came from outside society’s mainstream, who were spiritually hungry and found a new ‘faith community.’ Of the estimated 7,000 Messianic Jews here, as many as half are recent Russian immigrants who were not raised Jewish … The Messianics aren’t a cult, either. They have no single leader or even a leadership team, and none of them is considered by any means divine, or closer to God than others, or possessed of divine powers. Each of the 100 or so congregations is effectively a community unto itself … They maintain no closed commune or retreat where new converts are brainwashed or ‘love-bombed,’ the newcomers are not kept away from their families or friends, and anyone who wants to leave the community, leaves. While Jews for Jesus are the only ones who proselytize strangers in the street, Messianics are candid about talking up Jesus to any Jew (or gentile) who shows an interest … But their religion is indistinguishable from evangelical Christianity; they speak of themselves as ‘Messianics’ or ‘believers’ more than as ‘Messianic Jews.’ They pray in evangelical Christian churches and evangelical Christians pray in their congregations – they prefer not to use the term ‘synagogues – with no changes in text or ritual necessary … The Messianics say it’s only militant Orthodox Jews who give them problems; the mainstream Israeli Jews they live among are completely tolerant … Although society leaves the community largely to itself, when interest is shown, it’s largely negative. When I beagn approaching Messianics for this story in December, I ran into a lot of suspicion … I came armed with references from the community, but even my references were wary … The Bnei Brak-based Yad L’Achim, which considers Messianics to be law-breaking ‘missionaries’ and ‘cultists,’ makes no bones about doing everything legally possible to make these people’s lives miserable. In an interview in 2005, the organization’s aged leader, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, told me: ‘When we find out about a missionary, we publicize his identity on posters, newspapers ads, by word of mouth. We don’t even have to phone up his place of work – a lot of Jewish employers don’t want to be involved with missionaries … So seeing an ad in the newspaper is enough for [the employer] to fire him. But not all employers will do this’ … Yad L’Achim fully acknowledges sending undercover spies into the Messianics’ congregations, reporting on them to the Interior Ministry to prevent members from entering the country, making aliyah or getting citizenship.” Derfner spoke at length to Eitan Kashtan, Ayelet Ronen at Yad HaShemonah, Calev Myers, and David Tal [Goldberg] (“Leaving the fold”), as well as Dan Sered from Jews for Jesus. He obviously attended a number of different congegations.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Jerusalem Post, February 23; Makor Rishon, February 23; Haaretz, February 20 (x 3), 2009
In his column “The Makings of History,” Tom Segev related this week to the New Testament: “A gentleman in a festive suit stopped me at the Jerusalem International Book Fair this week and gave me a CD for all Jews, all in Yiddish. But it was the New Testament translated by Chaim Einspruch. Definitely something I don’t yet have. The elegant gentleman was representing a company that distributes sacred texts, which is based in England. Now I know how to write Jesus the messiah in Yiddish: the same way as in Hebrew” (Haaretz, February 20; Hebrew and English editions).
In the “Week’s End” of the same paper, Michael Handelzalts looked at “The Newest Testament – On biblical speakers and those who voices were heard, or not, in our election.” In relating to the slogan adopted by both Netanyahu and Livni, “the people have spoken (ha-am amar et dvaro),” he noted that “the word dvaro derives from the root dalet-beit-reish – the basis of the noun ‘to speak’ and also of the noun ‘thing’ – thus referring to the Greek concept of logos, used in Christianity to identify Jesus with the ‘Word of God’ (as in, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ – John 1:1).”
The Jerusalem Post (February 23) and Makor Rishon (February 23) both reported on the findings of a recent survey investigating Israeli responses to Christianity. Under the headline, “Israelis split on accepting charity from Evangelicals, poll finds,” the former indicated the “the study highlighted sharp differences of opinion between secular and religious Jews on Christianity. Fifty-five percent of respondents said Israel should accept charity from Christian missionaries, while 41% were against accepting such funds, according to the survey carried out for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. Seventy-nine percent of Orthodox Israelis said Jewish groups should not accept such charity, compared to 70% of secular Israelis who said they should. The survey did not separate responses from haredim [Ultra-Orthodox] – who are more opposed to accepting such money – and modern Orthodox Jews [another form of Orthodoxy] … Seventy-four percent of Israeli Jews do not regard Christians as ‘missionaries,’ while 76% are not bothered by encountering a Christian wearing a cross, the survey showed. At the same time, only 50% of Israeli Jews agreed that Jerusalem was central to the Christian faith, and 74% believe the state should not allow Christian groups to buy land to build new churches in the capital, the survey found. Forty-one percent of Israeli Jews believe that Christianity is the closest religion to Judaism, compared to 32% who cited Islam, according to the survey. Eighty percent of secular Jews believe they are allowed to enter churches, and 92% of them visited churches when abroad, while 83% of religious Jews said that visiting churches is forbidden by Jewish law. More than three out of every four religious Jews believe Christianity is ‘idol worship,’ while 66% of secular Jews believe that Christian soldiers in the IDF should be allowed to use the New Testament for swearing allegiance to the state, but 62% of religious Jews think only the Torah should be used. The data for the Rafi Smith Institute survey was collected last March among 500 Jews from various streams. The study did not cite a margin of error.” Representatives of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and the International Christian Embassy both indicated a measure of satisfaction with the survey.
Yitchak Hildesheimer in the religious weekly Makor Rishon entitled his article, “Large gap between religion and secular with respect to Christianity,” noting that the findings were “surprising.” While the Jerusalem Post report indicated that the survey had been “published amid growing support for Israel from evangelical Christians,” Hildesheimer suggested that it had been commissioned in light of the upcoming papal visit. He cited additional data, including the fact that “75% of secular Jews in the State agree that ‘immigrants’ from the former Soviet Union who define themselves as Christian should be allowed to conduct Christian ceremonies in Israel. In contrast, 68% of the religious and Orthodox respondents opposed such a possibility.” According to Hildesheimer, the report states that 78% of religious and Orthodox Jews consider Christians to be idolaters. He further noted that the survey was edited by Dr. Amnon Ramon of the Smith Institute, who told Makor Rishon that on the basis of statistics from the years 2004-2006 regarding the rise in the number of requests made by soldiers to swear on the NT, the army had introduced a conversion course for Russian speakers. He further intimated that in his opinion, had they been asked, those who support the right of soldiers to swear on the NT would also have encouraged their conversion.
HaModia, February 20; Jerusalem Post, February 19, 22; Israel HaYom, February 22 (pp. 19, 30), 23; Ma’ariv, February 22; Haaretz, February 18, 19 (pp. 4, 15), 20, 22 (pp. 1, 3, 113), 23 (pp. 2, 5, 11); Yated Ne’eman, February 23; Dakot 24, February 19; HaMevaser, February 20; Israel Post, February 19, 22 , 23, 2009
HaModia (February 20) ran the story of Benedict XVI’s article published by an Austrian publishing house with links to the far Right (see previous Reviews).
On the continuing debate over Bishop Williamson and the pope, Ronen Dorfen in the Israel Post (February 22) compared the latter with Angela Merkel – who came out more favorably than the pontiff: “The German State has taken responsibility for the Holocaust. Not just a verbal Christian apology but a true investigation into the facts, financial compensation (with all its problems), and most importantly, a profound absorption of the subject into the German educational system. The Vatican, on the other hand, has taken only a blurred form of responsibility. Not just the behavior of Pope Pius XII and the problems with returning children who had survived in monasteries, but principally in relation to the preparation of the ground for the Holocaust through centuries of anti-Semitism. Research studies continue to demonstrate that the level of anti-Semitism is higher in Catholic than in other Christian countries. And even the statement that the Holocaust was ‘a crime against God’ is a sticky point. Pardon for crimes against God is the Church’s primary weapon. The Holocaust was primarily a crime against Jews, and against groups like the Gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled.”
According to a report in Yated Ne’eman (February 23), the Argentinean Jewish community has welcomed the government’s decision to ask Bishop Williamson to leave the country following his dismissal from his post at the St. Pius X seminary in La Reja. An official announcement stated that Williamson had been given ten days to leave the country before being expelled, since he has “‘gained a bad public reputation following his anti-Semitic statements in the Swedish newspaper … Williamson’s anti-Semitic views have deeply offended Argentinean society … For these reasons, together with the Argentine government’s vehement denunciation of such statements, which impinge on the country society’s, the Jewish community, and all humanity in their attempt to destroy the historical truth, the government has decided to ask the Bishop to leave the country or face expulsion.’” The government further claimed that Williamson had lied concerning his purpose in being in Argentina, having declared on entering the country that he belonged to a NGO. The Jewish community welcomed the governmental step, saying that “‘it witnessed to the fact that the country’s leaders were not prepared to live side by side with lies.’”
Jewish-Catholic relations have been aggravated by an ill-advised spoof aired on Israeli Channel 10 on a late-night variety show hosted by comedian Lior Shlein. According to Haaretz (February 18/19), “In a press conference held yesterday in Nazareth, religious leaders denounced Shlein for a spoof entitled ‘Like a Virgin,’ which depicts two characters who play Jesus and Mary. In the skit, Mary is heard saying that she had slept with many men and that she was not a virgin at all … Christian leaders said Shlein’s jokes are ‘hurtful and humiliating to Christianity.’ Salim Kubti, an attorney and the chairman of an umbrella organization representing Christian courts, said he and a number of other lawyers are considering a law suit against Channel 10 … ‘These statement go beyond satire and dark humor. These are serious statements that insult the sensitivities of every Christian and anyone who possesses values and mutual respect for other religions’ … In response, Shlein sent a letter of apology to one of the attorneys, pledging to apologize on the air for the skit.”
According to a report in Israel HaYom (February 22, p. 19), “dozens of Arab Christians demonstrated yesterday at the Kfar Yasif junction in the Galilee, threatening to boycott Channel 10 if Shlein is not dismissed from his post.” Channel 10 responded by stating that “‘This was a satirical reaction to the pope’s decision to reinstate a Holocaust-denying bishop. When something sensitive and sacred like the Holocaust is mocked, it is only legitimate that a satirical program will respond to such a step. When Lior understood that the skit had hurt the sensitivities of the Christian public in Israel, he apologized of his own accord on the air, and sought to clarify that it had not been intended to hurt Christianity or its adherents.’”
Under the headline, “Christians crucify Lior Shlein,” Dakot 24 (February 19) indicated that Shlein’s program has a regular spot which is called “Denying Christianity,” and that in this particular program Jesus was portrayed as immensely fat and his mother Mary as not a virgin. “Following the program, MK Hanna Swaid (Chadash) delivered an urgent letter to the Attorney General, asking him to open an investigation against those responsible for the spot and against Shlein’s comments. In addition, the day before yesterday, Christian leaders called on the pope to postpone his trip to Israel in protest against the skit. When it became known that Christian officials were planning to meet to discuss taking additional steps, members of the Arabic-language ‘Voice of Israel’ decided to attempt to reconcile the sides on the air. In the program ‘Stations,’ the program’s director, Avi Cohen, the Patriarch Fr. Humam Hazuz, and attorney Farid Gubran, were all given the opportunity to speak. Cohen apologized on the air for the skit and emphasized that it contained no intention to hurt Christian viewers. Yesterday, Shlein himself published a letter of apology, as well as apologizing on air. ‘The night-time program team and I make every effort to bring our viewers a satirical and amusing comment every night on the day’s events. In this case, we made a mistake and for this we apologize,’ he wrote.”
According to a brief report in Ma’ariv (February 22), “Christian bodies stated that they would not permit Channel 10 news crews to film in Christian settlements, neighborhoods, and sites in the country ‘until the Channel apologizes.’” The Israel Post (February 19) likewise noted that the chairman of the National Committee of Ecclesiastical Courts in Israel had stated that the spoof “‘hurt in an offensive way Yeshu, our Messiah, and Mary.’” Kubti added to the Israel Post that, “the way in which Mary had been portrayed in the spoof had ‘crossed the accepted lines.’ He likewise stated that ‘we [Christians] are known for being tolerant, but even our priests thought that this crossed the line, as well as the members of the community who saw the program.” Kubti explained that the organization he represents was established in recent months “by a group of academics to deal, among other things, with the connection of the Christian community in the country to the law and Israeli society, as well as with attempts to promote friendship between Jews and Arabs.” In reaction to the complaints, Channel 10 decided not to air an additional skit which had been planned for broadcast.
A further report in Haaretz (February 22, Hebrew and English editions [p. 1]) noted that “In their denunciation, the clergymen accused the skit of fomenting religious hatred … The statement by local clergymen, headed by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, said the skit ‘causes rifts and divisions, foments hatred and distances values that the church professes, first and foremost tolerance and acceptance of the other.’ It also said the skit was merely the latest in a series of disturbing anti-Christian incidents over the last year, such as the burning of several New Testaments in Or Yehuda. ‘For years, Christianity has been fighting anti-Semitism, and now Christians find themselves under anti-Semitic attack,’ the statement said. It also urged the state to take action to prevent further affronts to Christian sensibilities … The skit … denied that Jesus walked on water, as stated in the New Testament, and claimed that not only was Mary not a virgin when she gave birth to him, as Christian tradition holds, but that she was promiscuous and had sex with many men besides her husband … attorneys are now examining whether there are legal grounds for … a [law] suit. Christian and Muslim clergymen also urged Pope Benedict XVI to cancel his planned trip here later this year.”
Under the headline, “Vatican irked by ‘blasphemous’ comments on Channel 10 show,’ the Jerusalem Post (February 22) reported that, “The Vatican said it has formally complained to the Israeli government about a television show on Channel 10 that ridiculed Jesus and Mary in an ‘offensive act of intolerance’ … In the show, Mary was said to have become pregnant by a schoolmate. It said that Jesus could never have walked on water because ‘he was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee in a bathing suit.” It identified the skit as an attempt on Shlein’s part to provide a “‘lesson’ to Christians who deny the Holocaust.” In response, “A statement from the Vatican press office on Friday said its representative in Israel had complained to the government about the segment, in which Mary and Joseph were ‘ridiculed with blasphemous words and images’ that amounted to a ‘vulgar and offensive act of intolerance toward the religious sentiments of the believers in Christ.’”
The Israel Post (February 23) further noted that Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor had referred the Vatican complaint to Channel 10, which had promised that the skits would not be rebroadcast. It also stated in another piece (February 23), that “Lior Shlein didn’t know what had hit him. He was only putting on a spoof on his night-time program, ‘Night-time with Lior Shlein,’ in protest against Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to reinstate Richard Williamson, a Holocaust-denying bishop. But Shlein didn’t imagine, even in his worst nightmares, what a furore the skit on Jesus and Mary would arouse, including the fact that Ehud Olmert, still Prime Minister, prevented an explosion with the Vatican and apologized officially. The Prime Minister did this yesterday in a government meeting, during a survey conducted by members of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. ‘I take this opportunity to utter a word of reservation regarding the expressions which were heard on one of the television programs,’ Olmert said. ‘I don’t want the government of Israel to become the kind which criticizes television programs, but if in another country similar things were said about the Jewish religion, there would certainly be an outcry in the Jewish community.’ The Prime Minister added that he had no intention of limiting the freedom of expression in the country, ‘but there is certainly place for wisdom and responsibility, and a modicum of restraint, even when in a satire.’ Olmert specifically apologized to the Christian community living in Israel in co-existence. He added that ‘the relations with the Vatican and with the Christian world are very good and there is no reason to harm them in this context’” (cf. Haaretz, February 23, p. 2).
According to Israel HaYom (February 23), Olmert “chose to apologize following an appeal by the heads of the Christian communities in the country and following an announcement by the Vatican according to which the skit ‘ridiculed and profaned the sanctity of Yeshu and his mother Mary.” In a similar piece, Haaretz (February 23) reported that “The Vatican also said it regretted that such an attack was directed against Mary and Jesus, ‘children of Israel’” – and that Channel 10 “apologized over the weekend again for the skit.”
Under the headline “Satirists don’t apologize,” the Haaretz editorial of February 23 (Hebrew and English editions) stated that: “Prime Minister Olmert’s apology during yesterday’s cabinet meeting for the comic skit ‘Like a Virgin’ on Lior Shlein’s late-night television show on Channel 10 was unnecessary. Though the skit ignited a fierce storm of protest among Christians in Israel and around the world, it is not the government’s task to stand in the way of satirical works – be they on television or anywhere else … clergymen and legal figures in the Christian community in the Galilee have released strongly worded statement expressing the view that the skit ‘is not satire, but rather harms the sensitivities of every Christian in Israel and the world over’ … Mocking religion is not a new phenomenon in the arts, nor is the outrage that may follow – whether spontaneous or well planned – which is provoked by works that ridicule the most sacred symbols for millions of believers in every religion and ethnic group … Shlein may not be [Monty] Python, but clergymen will always refuse to accept satire, whose very nature is to poke fun at every belief and make a mockery of every sanctified principle. A society that claims to espouse freedom of expression, and the leaders of such a society, are supposed to champion principles that completely differ from those of religious leaders.”
In a lengthy opinion piece in HaMevaser (February 20), Menachem Kahane looked at the “Unholy visit” of different popes to Israel in light of the upcoming scheduled trip, claiming that, “It is very important to understand the broader context of such an event. In order to do so, it is worth examining first of all the historic attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Jews, as well as the personal relation of those who stand at its head to the ‘Jewish question.” Kahane’s perception of the latter matters was clearly pessimistic: despite all the progress, he cannot see how it is possible to talk now of “a different Church, since even the most devout proponents of dialogue with the church cannot boast of popes who do not negate the very essence of Judaism. By its very nature and religious beliefs, as they are formulated in its ‘doctrines,’ the Church cannot accept the existence of the Jewish nation as the ‘chosen people.’ It is compelled to deny the continuing relation between that people and its God, the eternal covenant painted on the bases of the Written and Oral Torah, and all that ‘the ancient scholar is due to renew’ … Yet the Church does not seek the total annihilation and disappearance of the people of Israel, merely its clothing in pathetic garb, its miserable state, its humiliating status, until they join themselves to its scheme [convert].” Thus, in relation to Pope Benedict’s scheduled visit in May, he considered that, “Two popes have already visited Israel. The first visit was conducted from a place of great hostility towards the Jews and Israel. The second was more conciliatory. The present pope, the one who is supposed to arrive in another month, has already aroused great controversies with a bad taste of mission and even the ‘pardon’ of a Holocaust-denying bishop.”
According to a report in Haaretz (February 22, p. 3), “Dutch Jews are accusing a Christian organization of insulting Jews and Muslims by trying to convert them under the banner of promoting peace and interfaith dialogue.” “Cornerstone” advertised a conference in Soest, near Utrecht, under the title “The path: Reconciling Jews with Arabs,” and countered the Jewish community’s protest that “‘It is an insult and maltreatment of the Jewish and Muslim faiths to suggest that their followers can only coexist in peace if they convert to Christianity’” by saying “‘Being Christian doesn’t mean losing one’s Jewish identity. They remain Jewish. The [Central Jewish] Committee is jumping to conclusions.’” The group’s visit to Westerbork concentration camp also garnered criticism: “‘It is upsetting that they come to commemorate Jews [murdered in the Holocaust] while they themselves believe that Jews should no longer exist, and become Christian,’ [Ronny] Naftaniel [head of the Center Information and Documentation on Israel] said. [Jaap] Broker [one of the conference organizers] explained that the organization brought Christian Arabs to the site. ‘Christian Arab leaders want to know more about the Holocaust, which will help create a bond with the Jewish people,’ he said.”
Looking at the current strain in Jewish-Catholic relations, Will Heaven, a contributing editor of the British weekly The Catholic Herald, writing in the Jerusalem Post (February 19), asserted that, “Now, more than any other time in our troubled history, Catholics and Jews must stand together against the threat of Islamism.” He noted that the “pathetic advisors to the pope, who were ‘unaware’ of Williamson’s renowned anti-Semitism … should be sacked … Although none of the [four] men is allowed to teach in the church, the healing of one rift [within the Catholic Church] has very nearly led to another. The pope and his incompetent advisors have come close to causing a meltdown in Catholic-Jewish relations. This outcome would be disastrous for both sides … The biggest threat to stability in Israel emanates from Iran in the most virulent form of Islamism … The Catholic Church understands all too well that Ahmadinejad’s morbid ambition has nothing to do with political maturity … The intolerance of a bigoted regime has driven Catholics out of Iran in vast numbers. It is that same intolerance that would attempt to rid the Middle East of the Jewish people … Benedict – in spite of recent events – remains one of the most pro-Israel leaders in the political world … It is this yearning for cooperation in the face of new and horrible threats to Israel that must remain a priority.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Yediot Haifa, February 20, 2009
Although Haifa is still making preparations for the pope’s scheduled May visit, with the location for the mass he is expected to celebrate having been chosen, local church leaders are warning: “‘There’s still no firm date for the visit, if it even goes ahead’” (Yediot Haifa, February 20). While city officials are hoping that the papal visit will put Haifa “‘on the world tourist map,’” the visit is in doubt due to the tension between the Jewish community and the Vatican in recent months. “Against this background, Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will reconsider his visit to the Holy Land, and a decision about it has still to be made. The Catholic Bishop of Haifa, Dr. Elias Chacour, stated that a final decision has still not been taken whether the pope will visit the Holy Land: ‘The Catholic Church, and I as the Catholic bishop in the region, have not received any information or instructions from the Vatican regarding the visit of the Holy See to the city or a public mass for 60,000 believers.’”