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John Feister concludes his daily reports from the Middle East with reflections on injustice at home and abroad.

Special Features
Day 8: Concluding Thoughts

The trip is over now, and all of us journalists are back home. I doubt that any of us will ever look at the Middle East in the same way again. Granted, we got an earful of the Palestinian side of the story, but don’t we get a monthly, weekly, even daily dose of the Israeli perspective?

We talked to a lot of people over a weeks’ time. Our schedule included about 5 events per day (usually 15 hours’ worth) for 7 days. It was a ton of input that I’ll be thinking about and sorting through for weeks to come. I hope to add a number of pieces to this website in the coming weeks, as the Special Synod of Bishops occurs, and as we hear Pope Benedict’s reflections and challenges after the Synod. The Holy Land, as we heard so much this week, is in need of our attention.

Two Sides to Israel

In the coming weeks another correspondent from our shop, Jennifer Scroggins, will go to Lebanon and Syria with Catholic Near East for the conclusion of this immersion experience. Look for her reports starting early in November.

Israeli soldiers at the new gate of Jerusalem's Old City (Photo by John Feister)
I reflected in my final video about the two worlds of Israel: the pretty side versus the Palestinian side. I couldn’t help but consider how much we do the same in our own U.S. culture. St. Anthony Messenger Press is next to the Franciscan motherhouse in a tough part of town. People around Cincinnati hear about our “Over the Rhine” neighborhood constantly on the news: shootings, crime, all sorts of trouble. It’s where the riots started here some years ago that earned a black eye for our region.

The point

But Cincinnati is a comfortable place to these people who watch Over the Rhine on the news. The outlying suburbs, I dare to say, remind me of the Israeli settlements: safe, comfortable places away from those dangerous poor people, perceived to be a black majority, whether that’s true or not. My point is this: I saw plenty of injustice in Palestine. I saw greed and racism at work. To a lesser degree, I’ve seen some of the same closer to home. I must say, though, there are no soldiers walking the streets with machine guns here! As Christians, though, we are challenged to open our eyes to injustice near and far.

When there is a moment of opportunity for justice, as there may well be now in Palestine, we should pay attention and offer our solidarity. In the hills where our Lord walked, in the towns and cities where he taught us to love, we are reminded that we all are one body. Click here to go back to the main page.




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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá


 
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