Pope in the Holy Land Chat Transcript
Father Richard John Neuhaus chatted with Beliefnet about the pope's recent visit to the Holy Land and John Paul II's papacy on Yahoo, Monday, March 27, at 6 p.m. EST. As with all chats, this transcript is unedited.
: Beliefnet welcomes Father Richard John Neuhaus. He heads the Institute on Religion and Public Life and is editor in chief of First Things magazine. His latest book, published this year, is "Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus From the Cross" (Basic Books).
: It's very good to be with you. I'm eager to see what questions are proposed.
asks: What is the significance of the pope's visit to the holy land?
: I think that it's going to be one of those few moments that will, in retrospect, be rightly called historic for Jewish-Christian relations, and also for Muslim-Christian relations, and for its powerful representation of the core beliefs of Christianity.
asks: Was the pope's visit religious or political in meaning?
: It was certainly religious and spiritual in its focus. It's properly called not just a visit but a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Only secondly is it a visit to Palestine, Israel, and other political entities of the region.
asks: Since Vatican II, how connected, really, is today's Catholic Church with that of the church in past centuries? Hasn't the modern Catholic Church schismed itself away from its past?
: No, I don't think so. Sometimes people talk about the pre- and post-Vatican II church, as though there were two churches. But in historical fact, there has been only one church. And in theological terms, there can be only one church, because there is only one Christ and the church is the Body of Christ.
asks: Will the pope visit the U.S.A. again anytime soon in this Jubilee year?
: There are no plans for his visiting during the Jubilee Year, but if he is pope--as I ferevently hope--for years to come, there may well be another visit to the U.S.
asks: How do you feel about the pope's safety and health while traveling?
: As for his safety, I think the Israelis are to be warmly commended for their solicitude. As for his health, we've seen in the Holy Land--as we've seen before--that he seems to grow stronger as the days go by.
asks: Did the Israeli government apologize for the anti-pope graffiti, where the pope was suppose to land?
: No, I don't think they did. I'm sure it embarrassed them. But I am sure that the government did not put up the graffiti, so there is no need for the government to apologize.
asks: What relgion are you?
: I am Roman Catholic.
asks: I think the church needs to take a bigger role in the entire world. Why does the pope not speak more often to the people of the world? All we hear is government and politics; we need the church to be more involved in our everyday lives.
: Oh, I think the pope speaks regularly to the world, meaning that he speaks to everybody. For instance, in major documents, such as those that are called encyclicals, they are addressed to the bishops, then to all the Catholic faithful, then to all Christians, and then to "all people of goodwill."
asks: Who's going to be the next pope?
: There is always speculation about the next pope, even from the very first day that a new pope is elected. Most such speculation is entirely futile.
asks: What is the general state of things in the church right now, father?
: I think, despite much evidence to the contrary, the Catholic Church is in a stronger position--both internally and in its relation to the world, as well as to other Christians--than has been the case for at least 400 years.