Lifestyle & Belief

How to welcome a pope, in 9 steps


Arab-Israeli children carry posters of Pope Francis during an annual march for Virgin Mary in the northern Israeli city of Haifa on May 11.


Ahmad Gharabli

JERUSALEM — Pope Francis arrives in Amman on Saturday, as part of his three-day Holy Land pilgrimage that will culminate with him formally meeting the patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox church in Jerusalem.

How do you welcome a pope? We’re glad you asked. Israeli and Palestinian authorities appear to be going by the “totally lose your stuffing” method: His Holiness is being treated like a rock star to such an extent that confusion is rampant. Below, a quick cheat sheet in case you, too, ever have to plan a greeting party for the Supreme Pontiff.

1. Quadruple-book 

Chaos, Marx Brothers style. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Youtube)

The Palestinian government scheduled three events for the media hoards at precisely the same time on Thursday morning, with the president's office, Bethlehem's municipality and various excited ministries evidently not in communication. A chaotic accreditation took place in Ramallah, a tour of the pontiff's upcoming footsteps occurred in Beit Jala and Bethlehem's mayor held a papal press conference at City Hall. In Jerusalem, at exactly the same time, the Israeli Foreign Ministry held its pontifical briefing. Amid vociferous grumbling, journalists considered dissecting themselves into four.

2. Auxiliary Jews 

When the Dalai Lama visited Israel in 2006, he visited the offices of both chief rabbis: Sephardic and Ashkenazi. (Orel Cohen/AFP/Getty Images) 

In an unprecedented step, the pope will be accompanied on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land by rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a Muslim leader. In an interview with GlobalPost, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto said both are "old friends of the pope from Buenos Aires."

Accompanying Francis to meet with Israel's chief rabbis will be Isaac Sacca, another Buenos Aires rabbi. Sacca is not part of the official entourage, but requested to join the group because Skorka, who heads Buenos Aires' Jewish Seminary, is an Ashkenazi Jew, whereas he is Sephardic. Really.

3. Bring on the bands 

Jaime Torres (Maxi Failla/AFP/Getty Images)

Then there's the entertainment section: Argentine crooner Jaime Torres and the duo Cesar Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky, who call themselves The Wandering Muse, are landing in Israel at the same time as Francis, to present an eclectic concert including fragments of Argentina's famous Misa Criolla and pieces of Latino Klezmer at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in honor of the visit, which Argentine media is following more closely than presidential travels. In one interview, Torres said he admires and "would love to meet the pope," thus joining thousands of riveted Israelis and Palestinians.

Given the expanding list of hangers-on and new papal BFFs, some Buenos Aires media observers have taken to referring to the visit as "the field trip" and "the carnival."

4. Total lockdown 

An Israeli policeman asks a Jewish man reciting the Psalm of David to leave the Cenacle or Upper Room on Mount Zion. (Constance Decorde/AFP/Getty Images)

In fact, almost no civilians outside of those attending the mass in Bethlehem will see the pope. Francis refuses, on principle, to be driven in armored vehicles. In reaction, skittish Israeli security officials are not taking any chances: He will ride in the open-topped vehicle he prefers, but all roads he travels on will be closed off. Some in the Vatican are complaining that the Israelis are turning holy sites into "military camps" that will prevent the faithful from seeing the pope. On the other hand, in the face of recent threats by extremist Jewish groups, other senior Catholics are demanding that Israel guarantee the security of all the sites.

5. Seal off the right-wingers! 

Right-wing Israeli protesters during an anti-prisoner-release demonstration in October 2013. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

For now, and until the end of Pope Francis's visit, Israeli security services have put four right-wing activists  under administrative restraining orders. 

6. Get his name right.

A staff favorite (Noga Tarnopolsky)

This is harder than you might think.

In Hebrew, the pope is called his Latin name Franciscus.

In Arabic, he is Baba, meaning dad. This may or may not explain a certain poster seen in Bethlehem welcoming “pop Frances.”

In the acronym used by the visit's organizers, he is HF (Holy Father).

In Spanish, he is often referred to by the shorthand used to refer to the Vatican, La Santa Sede, meaning The Holy Seat.

Should you run into him, the proper format is Your Holiness.

7. Make sure proper protocol is followed at all times. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. You'd be irritated too if you had to ask politely to see the pope while the president got a visit as a matter of course. (Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Getty Images)

In his off hours from being a rock star, Pope Francis is a head of state. He is, in fact, head of one of the few states geographically smaller than the tiny Israel and Palestine. As a result, while in Israel, he will pay a courtesy call to President Shimon Peres, his equal. But Israel's head of government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had to request a meeting with the pope, and will be received by the pontiff, who according to protocol is his superior, at the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute.

8. The fatted calf may be omitted in favor of shumai. 

Shumai. Not the pope's shumai. Didn't you read Step 4? (Wikimedia Commons)

What does one feed a pope? Yedioth Acharonoth, the Israeli tabloid, reports that at the midday reception taking place with the pope's official arrival at Ben Gurion airport, His Holiness will be served a typically eclectic Israeli bar mitzvah-like Smorgasbord, including dim sum; a liver pate "truffle on chorizo medallion;" Moroccan pastilia hors d'oeuvres; pullet brochettes; Israeli vegetable salad; lamb kebabs; Norwegian salmon ceviche; and roast beef fingers.

The chorizo, one assumes, is in homage to the pope's national origins. The first non-European pope will arrive in Palestine and Israel on May 25, Argentina's National Day. So expect him to be greeted with not a few sunny Argentine flags.

9. Put up posters. Lots of them. 

Above is a video slideshow containing a small sample of the popephernalia plastered across Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem right now. Below is a recording of James Taylor playing "Whenever I See Your Smiling Face," the GlobalPost-recommended soundtrack for this slideshow. We could, of course, actually set our slideshow to the music, but that would be copyright infringement, in which GlobalPost would never, ever engage. There is absolutely not a bootleg copy of a Pope Francis/James Taylor mashup floating around our offices.

See if you can spot the poster in which the His Holiness is referred to as “pop frances.”