Tight security, traffic jams concern Israelis, Palestinians

By Judith Sudilovsky

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Pope Francis’ Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem will be the only opportunity for local faithful to participate in the papal visit.

Pilgrims filled Manger Square for Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 13, 2009. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

Pilgrims filled Manger Square for Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 13, 2009. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

While there is room for about 9,000 people in the square, locals are wondering about the need for tickets to attend the Mass.

Despite the complaints, Jamal Khader, rector of the Latin Patriarchate seminary in Beit Jalla and a spokesman for the pope’s visit, said tickets are necessary to maintain order.

The precious tickets have been distributed throughout different geographical areas, including about 1,000 in Galilee, where both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI celebrated large-scale Masses. Church officials also requested permits for about 600 Christian families from Gaza to attend.

One of the families from Gaza will be lucky enough to lunch with Pope Francis after the liturgy. Another will be present at the Presidential Palace during a courtesy visit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Of note is that the Gaza parish has a unique connection with the pope: both Father Jorge Hernandez, pastor, and one of the sisters serving the parish are from Argentina.

Palestinian Christians also will be faced with what they called a “possible curfew” in Jerusalem during the pope’s visit. Some have sent a letter voicing their concerns to Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, papal nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

The Vatican’s Fides news agency reported that some members of St. Savior Parish in the Old City of Jerusalem wrote to the nuncio opposing any steps that would prevent them from greeting Pope Francis in the streets.

“We see attempts by the Israeli occupation to impose a curfew on the streets, including the Christian Quarter, during the visit,” the letter said, according to Fides. “The curfew is yet another attempt by the occupying power to deny our existence. It is unacceptable for the pope to pass along the narrow streets of the Christian Quarter, yet find it devoid of any signs of life and the faithful. As local church communities we are the hosts of the Holy Fathers in our city. We do not want to be excluded from a historic religious event, and want to offer our good will and cooperation towards the visit’s success.”

Some Jewish residents of Jerusalem have been grousing about the expected traffic jams and travel delays they will encounter when the pope arrives. As has become his custom, Pope Francis has requested not to travel in a security vehicle but rather in a simple car.

Israeli police have said that security precautions will be tight during the visit.

 

Whooah, she’s halfway there! Sr. Cristina is “Livin’ On A Prayer”

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ROME — A religious sister singing a Bon Jovi mega-hit with a British boy band for backup?

“Never say never,” Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia told her audience last night before she was swept into the semifinals by popular vote.

 

 

The 25-year-old sister from Sicily is now one of the eight contestants left on the Italian version of the TV talent show The Voice vying for the final win.

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Screengrab of Italian rapper, J-Ax — Sr. Cristina’s coach on The Voice of Italy.

Her coach, Italian rap-star J-Ax (who’s been choosing Sister Cristina’s repertoire since her Blind Audition debut) said he’s really sorry he’s turned her into his personal “jukebox,” making her sing his favorites from his “sulky adolescence.”

He said he’s been pushing her “to go to the next level” and conquer every genre: blues, pop, Italian ballads and now big-hair 1980s rock&roll.

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Screengrab of Sr. Cristina with members of the British band, The Vamps.

But on top of that, she got to have the emerging British band, The Vamps, provide the music and a group hug after the their performance.

She said it was “beautiful to have young people, well, kids, singing together with me.”

In fact, she spent her novitiate working with kids and young adults in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and used music to build trust and bring them together.

On those city streets, “I rediscovered singing as a way to praise the Lord, as something my soul needed, and as an instrument for touching people’s hearts,” she said in a 2013 interview.

Now she’s using her singing talents to touch people’s hearts via television, Internet and social media — saying she has a gift to give and a message that God takes nothing away, but rather gives you even more.

In case you missed her performance from last week, she did Gianni Morandi’s ballad, “Uno su Mille,” which is about how only “one in a million” has the inner strength to tough it out in the sometimes cruel world of entertainment (“You don’t know how hard ‘easy listening’ is…”).

 

 

She got a thumbs-up from the artist himself after her show, saying he watched her sing, thought she was great and that whoever has a gift and gives it will make the cut!

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