This week on Register Radio, Jeanette De Melo talks with the Register's Middle East correspondent Michele Chabin about Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land and later in the show she discusses the new book, The Love that Made Mother Teresa, with author David Scott.
Pope Francis’ Holy Land Trip
Michele Chabin is the Register’s longtime Middle East correspondent. She has covered religious news in that region for USA Today and Religious News Service among other publications. She spoke to Jeanette, in advanced of Pope Francis’ trip to the Holy Land last weekend, Saturday through Monday.
There have been protests, attacks, and anti-Christian graffiti on Church property, Arab property, mosques, liberal synagogues, and even Army bases. Chabin noted that these attacks have been carried out by a small group of Jewish ultra-nationalists who want to establish tiny Jewish settlements on hilltops in the West Bank. Politically, Chabin said, they’re far right wing and extremists. Their actions are fueled by anger at the demolishing of Jewish settlements and the limiting of expansion of new settlements.
These attacks are an attempt to embarrass the Israeli government in the eyes of the world, Chabin said, while also showing that Israel is a Jewish country and that Israeli minorities aren’t welcome. “Their actions and beliefs obviously do not represent the actions and beliefs of the vast majority of the Israeli people, including the Jews” Chabin said.
Pope Francis held a Mass in the Cenacle, the room of the Last Supper. There are ultra-orthodox Jews who don’t want Christians praying there, because it’s located directly above the tomb where many Jews believe the biblical King David is buried. These extremists, Chabin said, believe that Christians praying there will make it unclean, so they’re demonstrating and protesting. There’s also a rumor circulating among these ultra-orthodox Jewish groups that the Israeli government is going to give control or sovereignty to the Vatican during Pope Francis’ visit. However, Chabin said, both the Israeli government and the Vatican officials have strongly denied this claim.
Chabin has lived in the Holy Land for more than 20 years. She said that “for Christians, this is an extremely exciting event.” Short though the Pope’s visit was, it is a sign of solidarity for all Christians. It brings tourists and pilgrims, which is business.
Even more than that, though, “they often feel that they are forgotten,” Chabin said, referring to the Christians in the Holy Land. They represent less than two percent of the population in Israel and the Palestinian ruled West Bank (often called Palestine). As a result, they really appreciate this papal visit.
Jews and Muslims are taking it in stride as they can, Chabin said.
To begin his visit, the Pope went to Jordan, where he met with the royal family and celebrate Mass. At that Mass, 1200 Catholic children were expected to receive their first communion.
Pope Francis then went to Bethlehem and met with Palestinian leaders. He held a Mass in Major Square intended for Holy Land Christians, since he did not be have a Mass in Israel itself.
The Pope had a private visit to the grotto (underground cave) of the Nativity. He was expected to meet with both Muslim and Christian children at a nearby refugee camp and host a lunch with Palestinian families.
In the final leg of his visit, Pope Francis met with Israeli heads of state, at the Holocaust memorial, and prayed at the Western Wall.
The reason for this trip is because of the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in 1964. That was a historic meeting and paved the way for healing the schism between East and West, according to Chabin, and finding unity and common ground.
Current Patriarch Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world. He attended the installation Mass for Pope Francis and came to Jerusalem to commemorate this trip.
Chabin also noted Pope Francis traveling companions, but to hear about that, you’ll have to listen to the show to hear about it.
Author David Scott on Mother Teresa
David Scott is the current Vice Chancellor of Communications for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Previously he was Editor of Our Sunday Visitor. David’s work has been published in print media throughout the world, including L'Osservatore Romano, National Review, Inside the Vatican, and here at the Register. David has also authored several books, including A Revolution of Love: The Meaning of Mother Teresa and Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Dorothy Day.
Mother Teresa “captured everyone’s imagination,” Scott mentioned, and that’s what inspired his work initially and also his most recent book.
She made sure “we knew very little about her life,” so there is not much historical or biographical information available. So what we need to know, Scott maintains, is that she lived “a life lived totally for Jesus.” It’s not a platitude, but instead something that can inspire us. She showed us how, he said.
“Saints are of their time and place,” Scott said, “so we make a mistake if we think they are any different than us.” They had political views and quirky habits, just like we do. What we need to look at is the intention they all had to live every moment for the glory of God and the love of neighbors. Scott shared the story of how a priest friend of his, who had known Mother Teresa, told him not to forget to tell everyone, in his book, that “she was a tough old bird.” Scott said that, though this is an affectionate comment, it also points to the fact that Mother Teresa didn’t suffer fools and was very dedicated in her task.
“We live in big times,” Scott said, “where you can see all across the world, and yet here we had a saint [Mother Teresa] remind us that the response of the saint is that the way you affect the world is through your own little actions, your own little acts of love.” That’s her big message, Scott said, “we change the world one little act of love at a time, in our own time.”
Mother Teresa will be a historical saint, who will be remembered for a specific task, and yet will be a saint of the whole world. Scott compared Mother Teresa to Saint Francis of Assisi. “There are certain saints in history who capture us by what they stand for and by what they stir up inside of us,” Scott said. “You want to love the world like Saint Francis or Mother Teresa. You want to be able to put aside your selfishness like Mother Teresa and serve people who are annoying to you and your family. There’s something very human that gets touched by these saints, and I think that’s what makes them saints for the ages.”
Scott explained the similarities between the spiritualities of Mother Teresa and Saint Therese of Liseaux, whose name Mother Teresa took.
Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.