As Pope Benedict’s long-awaited visit to Israel nears, a new worry has emerged in the Israeli press about what some security experts fear will be an attack on the Holy Father during his stop in Nazareth.
The Pope will be in Bethlehem and Nazareth on May 13, the date which marks two important anniversaries in the Catholic Church: First, the 92nd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, on May 13, 1917; and second, May 13, 1981, the date on which Muslim hitman Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assasinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.
In 2000, I co-hosted the EWTN coverage of Pope John Paul II’s Holy Land visit. I recall our being very alert to the possibiliy of an attack on the pope during that trip — keep in mind that this was pre-9/11 — and many were praying especially for his safe travel. Thank the Lord, nothing terrible happened.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz posted an eyebrow raising article on its website yesterday, saying:
The Shin Bet security service does not want Pope Benedict XVI to use his so-called pope mobile in Nazareth next month, saying it may not be enough against any attack by radical Islamic groups. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will discuss the issue at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
The Holy See told the Israeli government that the pope wants to get as close as possible to his followers, so the Vatican hopes the pope will use the vehicle.
But the Shin Bet opposes this, citing pamphlets in Arab towns in the north calling for demonstrations during the visit. Other pamphlets by radical Islamists allegedly call for physical attacks on the pope.