Pope Francis underlined the “universal value” of Jerusalem in a meeting with members of a Vatican-Palestinian interreligious dialogue group on Thursday.
“Jesus wept over Jerusalem,” the pope said in the Apostolic Palace on March 9. “We should not pass over these words in haste. These tears of Jesus should be contemplated in silence.”
“How many men and women, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, have wept and in our day continue to weep for Jerusalem. At times, we too are moved to tears when we think of the Holy City, for she is like a mother whose heart cannot be at peace due to the sufferings of her children,” he continued.
The papal audience was held with representatives of the Joint Working Group for Dialogue between the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Palestinian Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.
Jerusalem, which is situated on a plateau between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea in Israel, is one of the world’s oldest cities. It is a source of division between Israelis and Palestinians, who both claim the city as their capital.
In his March 9 speech, Pope Francis said that Jerusalem “has universal value, as seen from its very name, which means ‘City of Peace.’”
“Here I think of the moment in Jesus’ life, when, just a few days before his passion, he came to the Holy City,” he said, quoting Luke 19:41-42: “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!’”
“This Gospel passage reminds us of the value of compassion. God’s compassion for Jerusalem must become our own, more powerful than any ideology or political alignment,” he underlined. “Even greater must be our love for the Holy City, as for a mother who deserves respect and reverence on the part of all.”
The theme of the meeting of the Joint Working Group for Dialogue was the spiritual significance of Jerusalem for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Pope Francis noted that Jerusalem was the setting of many events in Jesus’ life, as recounted in the Gospels.
“As an infant, he was presented in the Temple, and in the company of his parents he traveled to Jerusalem each year for the feast of Passover,” he said. “In the Holy City Jesus taught and performed many of his miracles. There, most importantly, he completed his mission through his passion, death, and resurrection, the paschal mystery at the heart of the Christian faith.”
Jerusalem, the pope added, is also where “the Church was born, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples gathered in prayer with the Virgin Mary and sent them forth to proclaim to all peoples the message of salvation.”
The Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue also signed this week a memorandum of understanding to strengthen interreligious and intercultural dialogue between the Vatican and the Muslim Council of Elders.
The agreement, which calls for annual meetings and a permanent joint committee for Islamic-Christian dialogue, was signed by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot and Muslim Council of Elders Secretary-General Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam.