Marking the Visit of Pope
Benedict XVI to Israel in May 2009
The Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the mount of Olives in the Kidron Valley, is the place where Jesus prayed with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. The Garden of Gethsemane was a focal site for early Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Overlooking the garden is the Church of All Nations.
The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel in May 2009 was officially described as "a pilgrimage to the Holy Land". To date, there have been two other papal visits to Israel, made by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul 11 in 2000.
Diplomatic relations were enriched in 2003, with the establishment of an annual forum for dialogue between the Vatican Council and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
The establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See (in accordance with the terms of the Fundamental Agreement signed in Jerusalem in December 1993) may be considered an extremely significant step in the historic process of change in the Church's attitude toward Judaism and the Jewish people, the first public expression of which came in the form of the declaration known as Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions), published by the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
In the Fundamental Agreement, Israel and the Holy See noted the "unique nature of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people..." and committed to "appropriate cooperation in combating all forms of Anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism and of religious intolerance, and in promoting mutual understanding among nations, tolerance among communities and respect for human life and dignity" and to "the promotion of the peaceful resolution of conflicts among States and nations, excluding violence and terror from international life". Other commitments related to preserving the status quo of holy Christian sites, questions regarding freedom of religion, pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other issues.
In November 1997 an agreement defining the status of the Catholic Church in the State of Israel and the hierarchy thereof according to Israeli law was signed in Jerusalem. This was the first time that the government in the Holy Land recognized the Catholic Church de jure.
(Based on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website)