Rome Diaries - Week 46

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this travel diary. A new selection appears each week.

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February 18, 2008

Israel – Our pilgrimage group arrives on time in Tel-Aviv – except for one late sign up. I decide to depart as agreed and let him travel to Nazareth on his own. As it turns out, we are stopped by the police because our bus had not paid its road tax and the late arrival passes us and arrives at the hotel at exactly the same time we do. A large group of Nigerians are at dinner we discover that the government funds 10,000 trips to the Holy Land each year – to match the 10,000 government-paid trips to Mecca. This is a rare example of sharing the wealth with the Christians minority. Our evening Mass is with matzo bread, and for the same reason the Jews have it at Passover – we had no time to buy or make anything else – we just took what we were given.


February 19, 2008

Israel – We are touring Nazareth today. Twelve years ago a conflict arose here about a mosque that was being proposed to be built over the tomb of Shahib al-Din who defeated the Crusaders in 1187 and was a nephew of Saladin. The Vatican and other Christian leaders considered the construction “a provocative act” as it would have towered over the Basilica of the Annunciation, a mere 300 feet away. The Muslims erected a protest tent on the gravesite and the Vatican began threatening to cancel the pope’s proposed millennial visit to the Holy Land. Overshadowing this back-and-forth is the simple fact that Nazareth is becoming more and more Muslim (now about 70%) as resident Christians get the message, in subtle and direct ways, that they are just not wanted. The usually unspoken question of Palestinian rights reveals itself in many contexts all over the country.