Rome, the Vatican and Jerusalem were linked up last week for a special television “talk show” transmission that looked to the year 2000.
Titled “The Threshold of Hope: Five Years From 2000,” the two-hour program was arranged and broadcast by a Catholic television station, Telepace, and the Italian commercial TV network, Telemontecarlo.
The live March 15 hookup linked Rome’s historic city hall, the Campidoglio, with the Vatican across town and with Jerusalem.
Participants included Christian and Jewish religious figures and Italian and Israeli political leaders. They discussed issues concerning religion, tolerance, the Middle East peace process and the symbolic importance of the year 2000, which will be celebrated as a holy year by the Roman Catholic Church.
During the broadcast, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Valls reiterated that Pope John Paul II hopes to make a pilgrimage to biblical sites in Israel and in the Middle East, including Iraq, before the year 2000.
“The pontiff hopes to be able to follow the routes of Abraham, Moses and St. Paul,” the spokesman said, “visiting Mesopotamia (now a part of Iraq), the Holy Land, Sinai and Jerusalem.
“The trip will have a strictly religious content and no political color,” Valls said. “The pope intends to meet the representatives of the three religious faiths: Jewish, Christian and Muslim.”
But the spokesman said the Vatican’s policy on Jerusalem had not changed. The Vatican does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would like to see the city under international jurisdiction.
Speaking from Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres praised the pope’s efforts at dialogue with Jews and Muslims and criticized religious extremism.
“I would like to see religions without knives, but religions with wings, that fly and do not kill,” Peres said. “I recognize in the pope the great merit of tolerance.”