ISRAEL: The Holy Seat

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An honorary stage had waited for the pope at the end of the red carpet when he landed in Israel on Monday. Atop the carpeted platform, four specially crafted wooden armchairs with white upholstery awaited the main dignitaries.

The preparation and construction of the stage had been carried out by the Defense Ministry, which these day is fighting to save its (many) pennies from the inevitable budget cuts. But Israelis are nothing if not creative thinkers, and it looks like the pope himself might be making a handsome, if indirect, contribution to the Defense Ministry’s plate, which plans to auction off the chairs.

Tuesday’s Maariv had reported that even before the pope had sat in one of the chairs, church figures had approached senior Defense Ministry officials and asked if the pope’s chair would be for sale. ‘For them it is a great honor to buy one of these chairs because this is the first chair that the pope sat on when arriving in the Holy Land,’ Victor Bar Gil, the ministry’s deputy director general, told reporter Avi Ashkenazi. ‘After the pope’s visit we intend to put all four chairs up for public auction. I know that a number of church heads announced their intention to bid and to offer sums of a few tens of thousands of dollars for each chair. For us, any sum will be put into the budget of the Defense Ministry, which is the actual owner of the chairs.’

Maybe the Vatican should ask that proceeds from the chair
Benedict sat on be used only for, uh, peaceful defense purposes.


(Psst -- it was the second chair from the right on the podium)

Actually, the ‘Holy See,’ explains the Catholic encyclopedia here, comes from the Latin Sancta Sedes: Holy Chair. ( For extra credit: see this entry for a history of the Cathedra Petri, the Chair of Peter)

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem.

Photos: Said chairs at welcoming ceremony for Benedict XVI at Ben Gurion airport. Credit: Government Press Office.