Did You Hear the One About the Pope, the Rabbi, and the Muslim?

May 22, 2014

3 min read

The Pope, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim religious leader ascend the Temple Mount together. This sounds like a setup for a joke, doesn’t it? But if it’s true, inquiring minds want to know if representatives of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam will be able to pry open the sealed door of exclusivism so people from all nations can be free to pray on the Temple Mount.

It has been just a few weeks since Rabbi Yehudah Glick and I sent a personal letter to Pope Francis requesting his help:

pope francis quoteWe are calling upon religious leaders from around the world to stand with us through word and deed. We believe the timing of your “pilgrimage of prayer” to this region is perfect on many levels. We are requesting that you, as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, join us in calling for Freedom to Pray on the Temple Mount for all nations.

For My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7)

You can imagine how encouraged we were when it was announced that for the first time in history a pope has included members of other faiths on an official papal delegation. Does this mean it will also be the first time in history a pope will ascend the Temple Mount with a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim religious leader?

I must admit my excitement was tempered when I read the following official statement from the Vatican:

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said their presence [the rabbi and the Muslim religious leader] on the delegation was an “absolute novelty” desired by Francis to show the “normality” of having friends of other faiths.

When it’s time for the papal delegation to ascend the Temple Mount on Monday, May 26 at 8:15 a.m., will Pope Francis ask his Jewish friend to sit this one out and pray down at the Western Wall? When he gives his discourse in the presence of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem up on the Temple Mount, will he ask his Muslim friend to offer the expected prayers in his stead?

Since Francis is calling his trip a “pilgrimage of prayer,” Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world are waiting to see if he will take the logical step of calling for freedom for all people to pray on the Temple Mount—while he and his historical interfaith delegation will be, you know, on the Temple Mount. If this is nothing more than an “absolute novelty” desired by Francis to show the “normality” of having friends of other faiths, he might opt to invite both of his “friends” to bow out of the historic Temple Mount photo op.

But what would happen if they all got caught up in the historical biblical significance of the House on the Hill and the rabbi started out in Hebrew withשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל(Hear, O Israel…), and before he could finish the pope prayed in Latin, “Pater noster, qui es in cælis, sanctificetur nomen tuum” (Our Father who is in heaven, your name be sanctified…), and as the rabbi and the pope continue their prayers the Muslim religious leader raises his hands and saysاللهأكبر(God is great…) and all three say “Amen”? Based on the long-standing status quo, that could get the entire delegation kicked off the Temple Mount! On second thought, maybe that is exactly why Pope Francis has invited his Jewish and Muslim friends to accompany him on his pilgrimage of prayer.

In just a few days the pontiff will have a “Golden Dome” opportunity to open the doors of tolerance, mutual respect, and religious rights for all nations by calling for freedom to pray when he ascends the Temple Mount. I can see it now: the Pope, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim religious leader ascend the Temple Mount together, bow their heads, humble their hearts, lift their voices, and pray to the God of Abraham. Now that truly would be no joke!

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