Pope Francis is back in Rome after his three-day trip to the Holy Land during which he made several dramatic gestures and advanced his ideas on inter-religious dialogue which he believes can be a catalyst for peace in the region.
Saying goodbye to Israel, where he concluded his tour which took in Jordan and what Francis called the Palestinian State, he dropped something of a bombshell on the plane back home.
First he told journalists on the plane that he was open to discussion about marriage for Catholic priests, and then he said this:
“A priest who has sex with a child betrays God. A priest needs to lead children to sanctity, and children trust him. But instead he abuses them, and this is terrible. I compare it to a satanic mass.” That last comment got raised eyebrows from Federico Lombardi, the veteran Vatican press office director appointed by Francis’s predecessor.
The Pope’s conviction that inter-faith dialogue can help the cause of peace was taken up by Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday, who confirmed he and his Palestinian counterpart will go to Rome on June 6 to pray for peace.
The final act of the Pontiff’s Mideast mission was a celebration of mass in the Cenacle, revered by Christians as the site of the Last Supper. But the visit will be remembered for his visits to the Wailing Wall, and Israel’s security barrier, the latter unplanned, and the moment when Francis hugged two clerics from his native Argentina he had brought with him, a rabbi and an imam. Longstanding friends, they showed those watching how they practice interfaith harmony.