JERUSALEM (Jan. 7)
Pope Paul VI expressed his appreciation for his welcome in Israel, in a cable sent to President Shazar. The cable was addressed to. “His Excellency, the President of Israel, Zalman Shazar, Tel Aviv.” The choice of Tel Aviv as the address was assumed to reflect the Vatican’s support of the 1948 United Nations resolution for the internationalization of Jerusalem.
“At the moment when our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, rich for us with moving and unforgettable remembrances, is completed, we wish to renew to Your Excellency an expression of our gratitude,” the Pope said in his message. “We have appreciated the facilities which we have been given for our visit to the Holy Places and we have been touched by the welcome we received on the part of the various authorities.”
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol declared yesterday in a statement that “the people of Israel were deeply impressed by the lofty personality of the Pope and by his emphasis on the need for peace, reconciliation and friendship.”
“We know that the words of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church regarding peace are heard throughout the world and I hope that their effect will be to enhance peace in our region and in the world,” Mr. Eshkol stated.
ISRAELI PRESS AGREES ON IMPORTANCE OF POPE’S VISIT TO ISRAEL
The Israeli press agreed today that the visit was an event of great importance for Israel but they questioned the Pope’s defense of the late Pope Pius XII who has been accused of failing to speak out against the Nazi genocide of European Jewry.
Haaretz, the independent daily newspaper, said that the visit confronted Israel with three tests; organizational, political and historical, and that the first was passed “with flying colors.” Politically speaking, the daily added, the very fact of the visit to a country which the Vatican does not recognize was an achievement of great importance. The historical aspect was the hardest to evaluate, the paper said.
Commenting on the refusal of Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim to attend the welcoming ceremonies for the Pontiff, Haaretz indicated it doubted that the Chief Rabbi was entitled to stay away from any state function. However, the daily added, it was possible that the Chief Rabbi acted wisely in this situation because the faith of Israel was justified in demanding equal status with every Christian church. Discussing the Pontiff’s defense of the late Pope Pius, Haaretz said “his is the opinion of one who is no more than mortal and historical research will not be halted because of this.”
The newspaper Hatzofe, Orthodox daily, asked whether Pope Pius did indeed do all that such a religious leader should have done, even to the point of endangering his position. The organ of the Religious Party added that the Jewish people would not jump to over-optimistic conclusions in connection with the Pope’s visit. It said there were two practical tests of the ultimate meaning of the visit. One was that the Catholic Church should actively fight anti-Semitism in Catholic countries and the other that it should recognize Israel.
Lamerhav, organ of Achdut Avodah, labor group, noted that the Pope had said in both Hebrew and English “Shalom” several times during his visit and called this “a clear strong voice of grace and wisdom which for the moment spoke louder than the voices of enmity which have been sounding around us for years.” It added that the very meeting of the Pope with Israeli officials was a de facto recognition of the existence of Israel.
ISRAEL PERMITTED JORDANIAN DRIVERS IN POPE’S CONVOY
It was revealed here today that 16 Jordanian Arabs were drivers of automobiles in the Papal convoy throughout its 12-hour trip on Israel soil. A high ranking Catholic prelate said here that the unprecedented arrangement was made with the agreement of the Israeli authorities. It was believed that the Jordanian drivers were used on the Israeli trip because the cars were scheduled to return to Jordan and the Arabs feared that bombs timed to explode after the return might be planted in the cars unless the Arab drivers were in control of the vehicles.
Chief Rabbi Nissim, it was learned today, rejected a Papal invitation to join Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, Sunday night in paying tribute to the millions of Jews murdered during the Nazi era. There were reliable reports that the Chief Rabbi did so when he learned that it would not be the Pope who would join in the memorial tribute.
While the Pope was touring the Galilee Sunday, he sent a message to Israeli authorities saying he had asked Cardinal Tisserant to visit the Chamber of the Martyrs on Mount Zion and that the Pope hoped the Chief Rabbi would attend. The papal invitation was delivered by Dr. Zorach Warhaftig, Israel’s Minister for Religious Affairs, to Rabbi Nissim.
When the Cardinal was told Rabbi Nissim had declined the invitation, he went on with the papal group to two Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem but later, he returned to the Chamber of the Martyrs and lighted six candles, one for each million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis. This gesture was favorably commented on in Israel both publicly and privately.