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Thursday, September 18, 2014

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From the pages of Pope Francis’s travel journal

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SUNDAY:  We depart tomorrow for the Holy Land. My soul longs to see the land of the Bible, to speak with both sides of an ancient conflict, and to work for peace. I thank the Lord for this historic opportunity, and I dedicate myself steadfastly to the task.

I confess that my body yearns for the luxuries of first class , but I am a willing servant, and would never complain about the leg-room in coach – or about having to share a row with Cardinal Ricardo, whose breath is like the breath of a diseased cow chewing on a diaper. We, like John Belushi before us, are on a mission from God. 

MONDAY: We arrived, after visiting Amman, the West Bank and Jerusalem in a single day. All through the afternoon, the voice of Carnac rang in my ear: “Name three places that don’t love Popes.” (Does anyone remember Carnac? Ask Brother Alexander later.)

I feel an instant kinship with this ancient land: the stone buildings, the smell of blooming flowers in the evening.  A few hiccups slowed the day’s progress – the Lord saw fit to guide our luggage to the carousel last, the rental car was more expensive than Priceline implied, and calling Palestine a state upset some of the locals. I guess nobody’s infallible, right? (jk)

P.S. Don’t call anyone a ‘maniac’. It’s not the same thing here.

TUESDAY: My pilgrimage continues to be a testament to the beauties of God’s creation. I am resolute in my quest to open a dialogue for peace, no matter the setbacks. This afternoon some passionate soul called me a fascist and threw a Slurpee in my face. (Brother Anthony pointed out that Glee only got to Israel this year.)

… Visited the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Wailing Wall. Our guide hinted that the whole world was waiting for the return of the missing Ark of the Covenant to the Temple, and the whole tour group stared at me. I said nothing; tolerance is great, but there’s still only one true faith, amiright? Anyway. I’d never ask them to give up their furniture, so I don’t see where they get the right.

…My thoughts turn to the topography of God’s holiest land, and to the immodest irritation my inner thighs are suffering. Why has the Lord seen fit to afflict me so? Perhaps as a reminder of the suffering that occurs here - or perhaps because it’s 130 degrees out and I’m wearing a cassock. Still, I can’t help but wonder: would the Bible tell a happier story if the whole thing happened in Belgium, or something? 

WEDNESDAY: Today marks the last day of our pilgrimage. I visited the refugee camp at Dheisheh, a memorial for victims of terror, a cemetery, and Yad Vashem. If the word ‘vacation’ has an antonym, I seem to have found it. (P.S. Yad Vashem has a Pope Pius XII exhibit, so....that was awkward.) 

…I was fairly distressed by the time I left the bus, near the separation wall. Truth be told, all I wanted was a selfie with that Banksy painting, but everyone assumed I was praying, and the media pounced. I can’t wait for Kimye’s wedding photos to wipe this story from the news. 

…Brother Andrew asked which gifts we should bring back and gave me a choice between vials of “holy dirt” and cans of “holy air”. I’m all for transubstantiation, but I told Andrew that dirt is dirt, and people like chocolate from anywhere. 

…On the plane home. Invited Abbas and Peres over for tea and prayer next month, which annoyed everyone again. Brother Philip had too much “take-off wine” and impertinently inquired after the contents of the note I left in the Wall. I kept my silence. Perhaps I should have prayed once more for peace or understanding – but, to be honest, the trip inspired only eight words in my prayer, words which will help me sleep peacefully until we land: “Thank you for giving me my own country.” 

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