This just in from the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM — Israel is inviting tourists to retrace the footsteps of the Virgin Mary, officials said Tuesday, in the latest campaign to bring Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land.
A new itinerary developed by the Tourism Ministry helps tour operators plan pilgrimages to sites where the mother of Jesus Christ lived and traveled. They include her birthplace near Nazareth in northern Israel, as well as Mary’s Spring and the Tomb of the Virgin near Jerusalem.
The Virgin Mary itinerary includes holy sites in the West Bank as well, including Bethlehem.
In 2010, 69 percent of Israel’s almost 3.5 million tourists were Christians — mostly Catholics. Now Israel is encouraging return visits by those who have already made their first pilgrimage.
Yes, I’m guessing Mary’s Tomb is going to be a big draw for Roman Catholics.
For the past six decades, it has been apostasy for Roman Catholics to believe in the existence of Mary’s tomb.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared:
By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
45. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.
Yep. Call this teaching into doubt, and you’ve fallen away completely from the Catholic faith. And it gets worse. Pope Pius XII added:
It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Like I said, I’m guessing Israel’s tourism experts are going to have a hard time ginning up business at Mary’s Tomb.
But they’re not the only ones who have their work cut out for them. Officials in Jordan are hyping “Lot’s cave” as a tourist attraction.
According to the book of Genesis, Lot (a man with something of a drinking problem) sought refuge in a cage after fleeing from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
What allegedly happens next is highly offensive — especially to our friends in the Moabite and Ammonite communities. Hard to see how they could make this a tourist attraction. But the Jordan Tourism Board is trying.