Past Newsworthy Dads

Holy Land Reporter

Marc Nadeau, who has traveled to the Holy Land a number of times on business, covered the recent trip of Pope Benedict XVI for Headline Bistro, an internet news site sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

 

Marc Nadeau with his wife Audrey and their daughter Gabrielle visit with Dr. Hiyam Marzouqa, Medical Director of the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem, where Pope Benedict spoke during his Holy Land pilgrimage.

Fathers for Good spoke with Nadeau, who was in the Holy Land with his wife and their 5-year-old daughter, about his impressions of the pope’s historic visit and the reactions of the local residents. He lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec (Canada), where he is a member of the Knights of Columbus Council #9825 – Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours.

Fathers for Good: What was the most striking event or memory from your trip to the Holy Land during the Pope’s visit?

Marc Nadeau: There were so many. The energy and frenzy in the air when Pope Benedict was in town. It was also surreal to see people carrying backpacks of the Sydney World Youth Day in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, as much as hearing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and “Adeste Fideles,” traditional Christmas songs back home, in the hot spring air of Bethlehem, a few steps only from the Nativity Church.

 

Words on a wall welcoming Pope Benedict, located in the Aida refugee camp (Bethlehem) at the foot of Israel's security fence

I was also enthralled by the evocation of the “culture of peace” concept by the Holy Father. With that expression, Pope Benedict planted a seed and I’m mostly assured that we’ll see the fruits growing out of it in the not so distant future.  The world, and not only the Middle East and the Holy Land, truly needs it.

Finally, I’m deeply impressed with the wide and sincere enthusiasm generated by this 82 years old pontiff.

FFG: What would you like people to know about the experience that they may not have picked up from the major news coverage?

Nadeau: Pope Benedict XVI is – by far – the greatest speaker I ever heard. And I listened to quite a few in my young life. He speaks with a moral and intellectual clarity that is much needed in this troubled world.

Furthermore, news coverage has a tendency of presenting the Bishop of Rome as a rigid, distant aging man. When the Popemobile comes less than two meters from you, you can observe that it’s not the case.

Benedict XVI always takes the time to get as close as he can to the people. From the way he reacts to the crowd during Mass or when he approaches the crowd, you can also observe that he’s a very human and considerate person.

In sum, Pope Benedict XVI is unquestionably underestimated not only in the news cycles but also in the intellectual discourse.

FFG: How did the Pope's call for peace resonate with the average resident in the different populations?

Nadeau: At the local level and outside the Christian communities, what I heard the most were the complaints about the traffic problems created because of the whole security apparatus put in place for the visit by the Israeli government.

By far, the Christians were the most excited about the pope’s pilgrimage. Pope Benedict XVI generally gave them hope in a better future.

Whether with his support for the arrival of a Palestinian State in the family of the world’s countries or his vibrant call for the universal Church to support the Christians in the Holy Land in a tangible way, this visit was a shot in the arm of a community that lives in a precarious situation.

FFG: Did you talk to fathers and families? How is their life? Does it differ among Muslim, Christian and Jew?

Nadeau: Whether Jew, Muslim or Christian, every father I met shared the same preoccupation, which is the future of his family and children.

The Jewish father worries about the fact that his kids will have to serve in the military, while the Muslim father wonders if his daughter or son will have a bright personal and professional future.

But the most touching moment in that perspective was a Christian Palestinian doctor who told me that she once wanted her children to move abroad to build their lives.  The Pope’s visit changed her perspective and gave her hope for her children in the Holy Land.  That was a poignant moment.

As a North American father, I have to admit that I’m reassured that my daughter – and the second child we’ll welcome next November – doesn’t have to live under a geopolitical cloud.

This said, I witnessed more hope than resignation during my sojourns in this part of the world. At the bottom line and outside the political process and rhetoric debates, I feel a general trend – I would say a longing – in the three communities (Jews, Muslims and Christians) for peaceful coexistence. That’s encouraging and we need to build on it.

FFG: How did your wife and kids enjoy the trip? What exciting places did you visit?

Nadeau: It was our seventh trip in Israel since 2006. My daughter is enthralled with the Orchid Resort in Eilat in the south of the country (on the Red Sea). My wife is fond of anything related to the outdoors and loves to dive in the Red Sea to observe the marine life. As for me, I’m fond of anything historical. The Holy Land thus serves us all in a very satisfying way.

Our specific favorites, apart from Eilat, are Masada, Bethlehem, Tiberias, the Mount of Beatitudes and – of course – Jerusalem.

I shall also mention Rosh Hanikra, right besides the border with Lebanon, where you can observe and walk in the breathtaking caves forged by the ocean over time.

On a more religious plane, the Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem), the Western Wall and the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock is located (Jerusalem) are significant places to discover, visit and truly appreciate.

You thus can grasp in a personal way the fact that this land is a founding place for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

But there’s always something new to see and discover.  Even after seven trips there! 

FFG: What message do you bring from this trip?

Nadeau: Pope Benedict XVI calls upon every one of us to do something to support the Christian community in the Holy Land. As Catholics, it’s not only our calling but a joyful responsibility to ensure that our Church will keep on living and accomplishing its mission on the soil where Christ lived. And I intend to answer the call. I’m currently working on a project to build support in favor of the Bethlehem pediatric hospital to that end.

Use these links to read Marc Nadeau’s Headline Bistro reports from the Holy Land:

Benedict XVI the Teacher

Pope to Mideast Christians: You Are Not Alone

Between the Hammer and the Anvil 

Palestenian Christians Seek a Home in a Homeland

Prejudice Blinded Many to Benedict's Invitation of Peace