I've never been shy to slag off the Pope (this one or the previous) for what i perceive as his promotion of homophobia, misogyny and the systematic abuse of power. His failure to save millions from HIV by prohibiting the use of condoms also gets me right up on the high horse. As unimpeachable (infallible?) head of the richest and most influential church in the Western world, he's a pretty soft target for the likes o me. So fair play to the man for his recent behaviour in the Middle East.
First up he went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem where he made clear his revulsion at what was done to the Jewish people by the Nazis. He also laid right into those who would deny or belittle what happened during the Holocaust. Let's hear no more pish about him having served in the Hitler Youth, membership of which was compulsory when he was a lad.
Then he hosted a high profile meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Israel, local Christian bigwigs and the head of the Palestinian Islamic Sharia court. No mean feat to get them together and a clear indication that he's in favour of closer links between what i (as an admittedly scripturally challenged atheist) consider to be 3 branches of the same religious tree. Jews, Christians and Muslims have been battering lumps out of each other and the rest of us for far too long. It's high time they cut the crap and accepted that they all believe in 90% of the same stuff (they just dig different headgear).
And yesterday while visiting Bethlehem, the Pope called for a sovereign Palestinian state and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. That's very big cheese indeed. I wish the UK and US governments would be so unequivocal on the matter. So for the moment, Holy See, The Holy Father, Pope Benedict xv1 or Holy Joe to yer muckers back home in Germany, i salute ye, sur.