Many of the foreign correspondents covering the papal visit are practicing Catholics who were excited not only because of the news value of what they were covering but also because of the religious aspect and their ability to see the pope close up.
One such journalist was Colombian-born Angela Maria Arbelaez, who lives in Greece ,the most anti-Semitic country in Europe according to an ADL survey, and whose 18-year-old daughter Francesca is a student at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.
Both mother and daughter have volunteered for Sar-El, a non-armed volunteer support program of the IDF.
Arbelaez has been to Israel at least 20 times accompanying Greek high-level delegations.
She is also involved in interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians in Greece, something that developed as a result of her volunteer work with Greek Holocaust survivors.
She discovered much later that her interest in Jews was genetic and that she is descended from conversos.
“Greece is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe” she said, explaining why it is especially important at this time in the aftermath of the shooting in the Brussels Jewish Museum and the sharp swing to the right in the elections to the European Parliament to promote interfaith dialogue.
This is one of the reasons why the pope’s visit to the Holy Land is so timely and so significant, she said. “It is important not just for Jewish-Christian relations but also for Israel and the whole region.”
An ardent Catholic, Arbelaez brought a large papal flag with her to the President’s Residence and tried to move into a seat closer to the pope than the rows assigned to the press, so that she could shout out “Papa Francisco!” It was of paramount importance to her, she said, to see the pope with the president of Israel, because separately and together they spell out a message of peace, love and reconciliation to the world.
Seeing them together, she said, inspired her toward greater efforts in her interfaith work.
“When you see injustice, you have to fight it,” she said.