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ISRAEL: Papal visit protocol potholes

May 7, 2009 |  7:15 am

The Holy Land pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI is a complicated affair. Besides requiring a tremendous amount of logistics and coordination, complex political realities present countless potholes that need to be sidestepped.

The pope will be attending a reception ceremony at the Israeli president's residence in (West) Jerusalem on Monday. Later in the week, he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth (full itinerary here).

A journalist (not the one in the picture) had inquired about the choice at a briefing held by Wadie abu Nassar,Wadie head of the ecclesiastical communications committee.

Consider the exchange:

Reporter: Why is the pope meeting the Israeli prime minister in Nazareth?

Abu Nassar: Very simple, the Holy Father is a head of state. He meets only heads of state.

Reporter: But why in Nazareth?

Abu Nassar: He is meeting President Peres, head of the Israeli state. Netanyahu is not head of state. But since the Israeli system is such that the prime minister has more political authorities than the president, there is a meeting. The Holy Father is not coming for pleasure, he has messages to deliver to the competent authorities. Since Netanyahu is not head of state, he is visiting the Holy Father in the house of the Holy Father. The monastery is the house of the Holy Father.

Reporter: Yes, but why in Nazareth?

Abu Nassar: Well, where is the house of the Holy Father in Jerusalem?

Reporter: The Apostolic Delegation.

Abu Nassar: And where is this located?

(Everyone laughs.)

Reporter: Gotcha.

The missing punchline, of course, is that the Apostolic Delegation resides in East Jerusalem. And it's officially the Apostolic Delegation of Jerusalem and Palestine.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Photo: Wadie abu Nassar during a briefing at the Latin Patriarchate. Credit: Batsheva Sobelman

Full coverage: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land