We were in Rome for Thanksgiving last week! My family and I thought instead of feeling sorry for ourselves being far away from extended family and our two older children, we would do something that we have wanted to do for years-visit this historic and fascinating city. We were not disappointed at all. With cheap airfares and a very basic place to sleep we took the plunge and instead of eating Turkey last Thursday, we had pasta in Italy. Last Sunday while it was snowing back in Seattle it was a comfortable, sunny 60+ in Rome. During the four days of our visit I was torn between wanting to see Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (maybe still hanging around for pizza somewhere) and the Pope.
I guess the Pope was in hiding preparing for his trip to Turkey and perhaps carrying the burden of his current high profile in the world and his misunderstood words about Islam. Or were they? I´m tracking the stories of the Pope´s visit to Turkey this week with all the background static from his talk in Germany last September, viewed by the entire Muslim world as offending their religion and prophet. We live in tense times and need to pray for cool heads and warm hearts on all sides. Word on the street in Turkey is that they will watch the Pope when he visits the Blue Mosque tomorrow to see if he seems to engage in any act of worship. Whatever your opinion on the matter, it behooves us as Christians to seek to build bridges of understanding in a day when steortypes abound on all sides, and to find ways to build common ground on issues that concern us all.
I´ll close with one more thought. As we walked the cobblestone streets of Rome a favorite song of the last few years was also running through my head. The song is by the popular artist, Joan Osbourne, and was a hit for several years. I still occassionaly hear it on the radio. Here is one verse from her song, If God Was One of Us. Somehow it seems apropos for the times we are living, asking unvarnished questions about who God is, from the heart of a postmodern person in a quandry. This clearly characterizes the Europe we now live in. The Pope´s visit to Istanbul shows the other face, the flashpoint between the world of Islam and the west. Europe is right in the middle of this intersection.
What if God Was One of us /Just a slob like one us / Just a stranger on the bus / Trying to make his way home / He´s trying to make his way home / back up to heaven all alone / Nobody calling on the phone / Except for the Pope maybe in Rome.