ASIA/HOLY LAND - Pope’s illness prompts special prayers and gestures of inter-religious friendship: he is truly a great Pontiff, a great ‘bridge-builder’ says Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land

Friday, 4 March 2005

Jerusalem (Fides Service) -Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land send messages of affection and concern and assure their prayers for Pope John Paul II, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM superior of the Franciscans in Jerusalem assured Fides.
“All the different Christians in the Holy Land are united with the Catholic Church at this time in intense prayers for the Holy Father that the Lord will give him strength and health. Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Ireneos came to express his concern and inquire after the Pope’s condition and he told me his community is praying for the Pope” Father Pizzaballa told Fides.
Father Pizzaballa told us that in Lent Catholics still keep the centuries old rite of pilgrimage to the places where Jesus suffered during his Passion. „This year our prayers were offered for the universal Church and for the Pope in particular. We are spiritually close to him in this season of Lent” he said.
“Here in the Holy Land John Paul II is seen as a man of dialogue and encounter, a great ‘bridge-builder’ true to his title of ‘pontiff’. Everyone recalls his special Jubilee pilgrimage “to the roots of the faith” when he made such significant gestures of openness towards all believers and showed his deep desire for peace and reconciliation and an end to conflict in the Holy Land. Both Jews and Muslims look to the Holy Father with respect and affection. Yesterday Rabbi David Rosen openly declared his feelings of sympathy and best wishes for the health of the Pope. Moreover, Muslims in Galilee assured local Christians there of solidarity and prayers for the Pope. These small gestures of dialogue and friendship show that John Paul II continues to build bridges and bring people closer together even when he is suffering”.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 4/3/2005 righe 28 parole 282)