Jerusalem – Ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s May visit to Israel, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, has said that it is not proper to come to the site wearing a cross.
The pope wears a cross in all public appearances and is slated to visit the Western Wall on May 12 after a meeting with Muslim religious leaders at the Dome of the Rock.
After the visit, which will include a meeting with Rabinovitch, the pope is slated to meet with Israel’s two chief rabbis, Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar.
“My position is that it is not fitting to enter the Western Wall area with religious symbols, including a cross,” said Rabinovitch in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post Monday. “I feel the same way about a Jew putting on a tallit and phylacteries and going into a church.”
Rabinovitch is responsible for religious decorum at the site.
“In coming days I intend to discuss the issue with the pope’s people,” Wadie Abunassar, media coordinator for the pope’s visit to the Holy Land, said in response to reports that the pontiff would not remove his cross. “I cannot imagine the Holy Father removing his cross.”
Rabinovitch also opposes security arrangements that would prevent worshipers from reaching the Kotel for several hours before and during the pope’s visit.
“For the past 42 years, no one has ever been prevented from praying at the Western Wall and, God willing, no one ever will. A solution needs to be reached that provides adequate security for the pope without infringing on the right of everyone to pray. The Western Wall belongs to everyone.”