Jews rightly see the pope’s presence at Mount Herzl, as a much needed act of historical justice. During his campaign to gain international recognition for the right of the Jewish people to return to their homeland and create their own state, Herzl visited Francis’ predecessor Pope Pius X 110 years ago.
That pope contemptuously rejected Herzl’s plea, a response that was very much in keeping with Catholic doctrine at the time that regarded perpetual exile as an appropriate punishment for the Jewish people for their refusal to accept Christianity. Fortunately, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II have already changed the church’s attitude toward Judaism and Zionism. While most Jews may disagree with some of the Vatican’s policies with regards to the Palestinians, there is no question that the two faiths are now closer than they have ever been. By paying his respects to Herzl, Francis is solidifying that bond.
But until the Palestinians give up their war on Zionism and find a way to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. The papal visit may not change much about interfaith relations but, unfortunately, that one stop on his itinerary demonstrates just how unlikely peace remains.