The Holy Land is home to religious sites important to Christians, Jews and Muslims. It also gives rise to competing--sometimes violently competing--opinions about religion and politics. Here are some, spoken on the occasion of the historic visit to the Holy Land by Pope John Paul II:


Stacey Brooks, 37, editor, Moshav Matta near Jerusalem, Jewish:

The pope's visit seems to me a very personal journey of a man frail andclose to death. There is something intimate in the reckoning process he ismaking--although a public, mass event, it's something very private. While it could be seen cynically as merely political, I believe in thesincerity of the emotional content. I prefer to think that at this pointin his life, the personal element of his pilgrimage eclipses all thepolitical and public-relations elements. In the end, I have felt verymoved by the pope's visit.

Alon Goshen-Gottstein, director, Elijah School for the Study of Wisdomin World Religions, Jerusalem:

On the whole, the pope's visit was immensely successful. The mantouched the nation's heart and provided a model of a spiritual presence, adepth of being. People were deeply touched by him.

As the organizer of Thursday's three-way interfaith meeting, itsoutcome (in which the Muslim shaykh vehemently criticized Israel and thenwalked out) saddened me greatly. But in retrospect, it was one of thehighlights of a visit that was otherwise heavily scripted. In thisinstance, life and reality came through. That reality is that one side isfull of good will, while the other is full of obstacles.

Mustafa Abu Sway, professor of philosophy and Islamic studies, Al QudsUniversity, Bethlehem:

At Thursday's interfaith meeting, Shaykh Tatzir Tamimi (head of thePalestinian Authority religious courts) was not a Muslim representative.He was representing the Palestinian Authority. However, I think that (inhis speech and by walking out) the shaykh was acting on his own. But thepossibility of pure interfaith dialogue does not exist on that level,because of the political situation.

Timna Katz, 40, Jewish West Bank activist, Gush Etzion:

The pope's visit represents a revised "Doctrine of Contempt." By theuncritical and enthusiastic embrace of the Palestinian Authority, whichuses the word peace in order to pursue hatred and hostility, the pope iscontributing to the present-day persecution and villification of theJewish people...Statements of regret for past Christian persecution of Jewsseem all the more hollow in light of present efforts to weaken anddismember the Jewish state...Even the PA's persecution of its Christianminority is purposely ignored by the church and the media.

Eliakim Haetzni, Jewish West Bank activist, Kiryat Arba:

The Jews are proving that they never came out of the ghetto. Even herethey are dancing (for the gentiles)...The visit of the pope was turned intoa celebration of Palestinian independence for which the government ofIsrael, in its blindness, provided the stage set and the props.


Rashid Khalidi, director, Center for International Studies, University of Chicago, Palestinian Muslim:

The pope's visit to Palestine had several important effects: It reinforced the standing of the Vatican as a party to the resolution of the issue of Jerusalem, and thereby strengthened the Palestinian position that there should be an international dimension to this resolution. It highlighted the plight of the Palestinian refugees, and confirmed the moral necessity of a just resolution for their problems after 52 years of exile. It helped to strengthen the position of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land, helping them to resist the pressures resulting from occupation and economic stagnation which have led their numbers to dwindle in recent decades.

It helped in the normalization of Vatican-Israeli relations, and willhopefully lead to a decrease both in Israeli paranoia about the wholeworld being against them, and a diminution in the completelyinappropriate stress on the responsibility of the Catholic Church forthe holocaust.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of Reform Judaism's Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

When my friend apologizes to me for a sin that he has committed,the appropriate response is for me to thank him, to welcome hisrepentance and to express my desire to continue our discussion. It is surely inappropriate to greet a heartfelt act of contrition with a pointed reminder of every act of wrongdoing that I think may have been left off the list.

The Holocaust cannot be the sole item on the Catholic-Jewishagenda As important as it is, it cannot become anobsession that crowds out all those other subjects that so urgentlyrequire our collective attention.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.:

As an evangelical, I believe that the Roman church is a falsechurch and it teaches a false gospel. And indeed, Ibelieve that the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.