Pope Francis receives a gift from Mahmoud al-Habbash, Palestine's Religious Affairs Advisor Pope Francis receives a gift from Mahmoud al-Habbash, Palestine's Religious Affairs Advisor  (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis: Jerusalem holds universal spiritual value

Pope Francis greets participants in an interreligious dialogue group between the Holy See and Palestine, and recalls the universal value of Jerusalem for the three major monotheistic religions.

By Devin Watkins

The Holy See hosted a meeting in Rome this week of the Joint Working Group for Dialogue between the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Palestinian Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.

Pope Francis encouraged the efforts of this working group, as he met with participants on Thursday in the Vatican.

In his greetings, the Pope recalled the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who started the group with Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the Religious Affairs Advisor to the President of the State of Palestine.

Spiritual significance of Jerusalem

Pope Francis also highlighted the spiritual significance of Jerusalem, which formed the theme chosen for the working group’s meeting.

He reiterated the appeal he made in 2019 with the King of Morocco, as he called for Jerusalem to be considered by everyone as “the common patrimony of humanity and especially of the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as a place of encounter and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence.”

‘City of Peace’

The Gospels, said the Pope, note that Jerusalem was the setting for many of the events of Jesus’ life.

It was in the Holy City that the Lord was presented in the Temple, and was where He taught and performed miracles, and the place where He completed His mission through His passion, death, and resurrection.

Jerusalem was also where the Church was born as the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples, sending them into the world to proclaim the message of salvation.

“Jerusalem also has universal value, as seen from its very name, which means ‘City of Peace’.”

A mother weeping for suffering children

The Pope recalled Jesus’ words spoken near the Holy City before His Passion. “As He drew near and saw the city He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!’” (Lk 19:41-42).

Pope Francis encouraged the members of the Holy See-Palestine Joint Working Group to dwell on the significance of Jesus’ words and His tears for Jersusalem.

“How many men and women—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—have wept and in our day continue to weep for Jerusalem!”

We too, he added, are moved to tears when we consider that the Holy City is like a mother who desires peace for her suffering children.

God’s compassion over ideology

In conclusion, Pope Francis urged the working group to recall the “value of compassion”, as they reflect on their love for Jerusalem, which deserves “respect and reverence on the part of all.”

“God’s compassion for Jerusalem must become our own, more powerful than any ideology or political alignment.”

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09 March 2023, 11:24