Forgiveness: A Spiritual Force

The Pope's trip to Isreal was a call for forgiveness as the only lasting path to peace
by Br Vito Crincoli | Source:

I have had the opportunity to look at some extraordinary images of the Pope’s visit to Israel. On the faces of so many is the look of hope, but not your ordinary look. It was the look of those who know that this only happens once, and the next time might never come. The Pope’s visit, his pilgrimage to these lands, was for many not just a sign of inspiration: it was a message, an invitation.

Before the Pope’s visit, we were accustomed to seeing other images. There were the images of confused and outraged people in streets in the aftermath of a bombing raid. Homes destroyed, and with that, people´s lives. Children of all ages, even pregnant women were in refugee camps, exposed to the possibility of infectious diseases due to lack of water and medicine. Hospitals were without power because the central electrical system of the city was bombed and the sight of paramedics trying to go through destroyed streets did not give them time to do much good. Can you and I only imagine the confusion and sorrow? Some awaited the next bombing raid and like death´s angel, no one knew when the next would come. The people had become hardened from constantly seeing tanks and military vehicles. It was a sign of domination and of violence.

The Pope’s arrival to Amman, Jordan, was a sight hard to believe. People by the thousands awaited him, all eager to see his face, to hear his words. As he descended from the plane, dressed in white, the gold cross on his chest and his hands extended, we saw images of children waving papal flags, people crying, people totally moved. How many were victims? How many were widows and how many were orphans? These were the victims of bitterness. The Pope’s presence was the voice of God which reminded his people that He would never abandon them. His “silence” was broken. The Pope’s mission was seen in these images: a pilgrim of peace.

The media has during these days been attacking the Pope’s attempt to bring stability. If he said something good about the Jews, someone would call him the enemy of Islam. If he praised the culture of Islam, someone would cry that the Pope did not recognize the Jews. The Pope in his visit to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem mentioned in the speech that “millions” had died; a rabbi who was present said that he was offended because it was 6 million and not millions. There was always something: even the German accent the Pope has when speaking English made some Jews present feel uncomfortable. In his departure discourse at Tel Aviv, the Pope made a point that a past, so dark and cruel, cannot be forgotten. But this bitter nightmare which has left its mark in our history should not be a wound that makes us vengeful but a “silent voice” which tells us that if man does not open his heart, history could repeat itself and will only bring us more evil and tears.That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied,” the Pope said. “On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love.

While the world plans and talks over possible dialogue, the Pope prays. Why is prayer so powerful? The Pope said it; “First, as believers we are convinced that prayer is a real force: it opens the world to God. We are convinced that God listens and that he can act in history. I think that if millions of people – millions of believers – all pray, this is truly a force that influences and can contribute to moving forward the cause of peace.” In prayer, God takes action, but it is also where man, in silence, changes. Someone once said that “Men must change before Kingdoms can.” The world promotes power while the Pope promotes love, and where there is love there is also forgiveness.

Despite the attacks from the press, a great majority of people said that the Pope’s visit was an attempt to turn a “new page in history”. The Pope in many of his discourses spoke of this need to admire the good that there is in each religion, the contribution that each religion has had in the society in which we live, and that love, not violence was the solution to peace.

The message behind the discourses the Pope had delivered these days is a call to forgive, and forgiveness needs forgetting. The gesture to remember those who died in the Holocaust on the part of the Pope spoke for itself. These images should not make us bitter or desire the wrong for the other but move us to build a better society. In order to build this society of peace the past must disappear and love must become the foundation on which to build a new world. The reality that history leaves us is tragic, but the future is brighter. Bitterness and revenge will bring us nowhere. Being vengeful will just make us blinder to the reality of a future that we can achieve if man is willing to change. Policies mean nothing and can change nothing if man is not willing to change first.

On leaving Tel Aviv he said in his discourse, “One of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall. As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression.” Through these words we see that only through forgiveness will the “wall” of our bitterness and blindness come down.

Br Vito Crincoli, of the Legionaries of Christ, studies in Rome and will be ordained deacon on 30th June, 2009.

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