Last week, a report began circulating in the Israeli press that President Benjamin Netanyahu would be meeting with Pope Francis when Netanyahu traveled to Rome this week. The report set off a firestorm in Israel because of rumors that a visit by the pope to Holy Land was contingent upon the return of certain holy sites to the Church:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be traveling to Rome next week to meet with the pope; they will discuss, among other things, the transfer of certain holy sites to the custody of the Catholic Church. “It turns out,” says HaModia, “that the new pope has set a public declaration of the transfer as a condition for his promised visit to the land.” One of the sites in question is David’s Tomb, “which the Catholics have claimed as their own for hundreds of years.”
HaMevaser reports that Rabbi Haim Miller has appealed to Knesset Members in an effort to stop the deal from going through. Miller claims that it is better for the pope not to visit Israel than that the tomb be handed over to the Catholic Church, even if this causes a rift between the Vatican and Israel.
This sounds like a lot of nonsense, but there was no chance the meeting was going to happen since it was reported in the press before it was even planned, and you don’t get on the pope’s schedule with one week’s notice:
In a diplomatic foul-up, the announcement made last week that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would meet with Pope Francis in Rome was retracted on Monday after it emerged that the Vatican had never scheduled it, Haaretz reported.
The pope’s staff said they only learned of the meeting through media reports. Efforts by Israeli officials to put such a meeting on the calendar at the last minute in order to avoid embarrassment after having announced it last Wednesday proved futile.
It was explained that protocol at the Vatican is such that a request for a meeting only a week in advance is unheard of and out of the question.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement: “As opposed to what was claimed, a meeting was planned this week between the prime minister and the Pope during his trip in Italy, but due to a scheduling conflict, it was postponed.”
Francis is still intending to visit Israel in March:
Pope Francis will make his first visit to Israel in March.
The pope told his close friend, Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, of his lifelong dream to visit the Holy Land, and of his intentions to visit Israel and Bethlehem, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.
According to Channel 2, the pope hopes his visit will bring a message of reconciliation.
He dreams of embracing Rabbi Skorka in front of the Western Wall, in order to send out a message against anti-Semitism.
Last week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein visited the Vatican and invited the pope to visit the Holy Land and be his personal guest in the Knesset.
“I’ll come, I’ll come,” Pope Francis responded.