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SIDIC Periodical XXXIV - 2001/1
One Year Later (Pages 7)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Opening the Doors to a Peaceful Era
Melchior, Michael


Pope John Paul II approached the Western Wall holding a written prayer which acknowledges the unbroken covenant between the Jewish people and God. Furthermore he beseeches God’s forgiveness for the pain inflicted by the Christian Community on the people elected by God. It was an extraordinary moment. The Pope touched the Western Wall. From my location directly behind the Pope, I sensed that something unforeseen was about to happen. As I accompanied the Pope to the podium my perception was that the Pontiff was as if magnetized by the power of the Western Wall. When he touched the Wall I sensed that the Wall was indeed moving in the Pontiff’s direction and was coming to touch Him.

It was as if a door, closed for so many centuries, was starting to open to reconciliation and peace among Christians and Jews. The mass-media immortalized this historic event for more than a half million viewers worldwide. I thought about the many times other doors have been opened, over the course of centuries, by Jewish people facing great dangers. A few minutes earlier, when I had spoken to the Pope on behalf of the Israeli Government, I reminded the Pope that “thousands of centuries of history are looking down……from the highest mountain”. I really felt that it was the right time to invoke our memories regarding the suffering of the Jewish people.

I wanted to reinforce the point that past persecutions can and should be the prelude to a new type of accord between a people and their religion. I said: “We cannot pervert religious values to justify war.” We cannot invoke God’s name to harm those who are created in His image. Today a new era is beginning, in which we are to follow the ancient paths and start building new roads that lead to peace among all religions. God’s faith will be the symbol of peace and fraternity among all nations, the symbol of justice and care for all of God’s suffering creation.

I know that not many people agree with my convictions that religion may be a vehicle to promote peace among nations engaged in endless war. Some of us are saddened because intolerance toward religion is unjustified. Therefore, we need the participation of religious leaders in the Middle East peace process: a great majority of both parties are religious. The war has religious tones. Interreligious dialogue and reconciliation may create an understanding which will lead to real peace.

By the Western Wall I suggested that the Pope promote interreligious dialogue at the upper levels of the three monotheistic religions in order that peace will prevail in the Holy Land and the rest of the world. I am hoping that during Passover, when Jewish people open their hearts to the prophet Elijah, we will remember that peace is possible after centuries of exile and persecution. I hope that this remembrance will lead to courage rather than sadness in order to open our doors to a new era – an era in which our desires for peace and our religious aspirations are united into one flame of light and inspiration.


* Rabbi Michael Melchior, former Minister for Diaspora Affairs, is the newly-appointed Deputy Foreign Minister in Israel. His column, reprinted with permission from L’Osservatore Romano, March 22, 2000, has been translated from Italian.


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