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Catholic Voice
  July 10, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Above, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, says Mass at dawn on the marble slab where they placed Christ's body in the tomb, and from whence He rose from the dead. At right, Bishop Barber stands outside the entrance to the newly renovated Edicule, where Jesus was buried.

Bishop says Mass for us at altar of the Holy Sepulchre

Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

Last week I experienced a real spiritual consolation. I went to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

I was not on a pilgrimage per se. I was invited to join a group of Jesuit Old Testament scholars for a week-long conference on relations between Judaism and Christianity. There has been a resurgence in Jewish studies by Catholic scholars in the past years. After all, Jesus was Jewish, and the more we know about Judaism, the better we know Jesus. Pope Francis famously said in 2014, "Inside every Christian is a Jew."

Pope John Paul II had said nearly the same thing, when speaking during his visit to the Roman Synagogue in 1986: "The Jewish religion is not 'extrinsic' to us, but in a certain way is 'intrinsic' to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers."

I think of that every time I put on my bishop's skull cap: what we call a zucchetto, and the Jews call a kippah.

Lest we remain in the clouds of academia, we also had a lively discussion with the Right Rev. David Neuhaus, SJ, the delegate of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel and Palestine. He described how difficult it was for Christians, especially Palestinian Christians, to practice their faith in the State of Israel. He also told us of the many thousands of Israeli-born children who grow up speaking only Hebrew, and are Catholic. Growing up in Israel, which can be at once very religious and very secular, they feel particularly marginalized.

I did have a spiritual highlight of my visit. I went to try and book a reservation for Mass in the newly restored Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre — the "church within a church" — covering the tomb where Christ was buried and rose again. The lady at the office told me they were booked solid for six weeks, but they just had a cancellation. Father Michael Castori, SJ, (of All Saints Parish, Hayward) joined me in celebrating a Mass at dawn on the marble slab where they placed Christ's body in the tomb, and from whence He rose from the dead.

To enter that small inner cave you have to bend down. Inside, there is space for only three people to stand. There is no holier place in all of Christendom, for by rising from the dead, Christ proved His divinity, and took away the fear of death for all who would follow Him. It was there that Father Castori and I placed all of you, priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Oakland, on the altar.

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