web analytics
August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Pope Looks To Mend Vatican-Jewish Relations


ROME – Always uneasy, the relationship between the Vatican and the Jewish community took another sour turn recently when Pope Benedict XVI announced he was rescinding the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.


While the pope managed to smooth things over somewhat by distancing himself from Bishop Richard Williamson’s Holocaust denial and, at a meeting last week at the Vatican with Jewish representatives, announcing plans to visit Israel in May, the uproar of the past few weeks raises significant questions about the goals of Benedict’s papacy.


It also highlights the scrutiny Benedict has come under regarding Jewish issues in the nearly four years since he became pope. The Williamson affair may be the most dramatic of the Jewish-related crises of Benedict’s papacy, but it’s not the first.


“What has been revealed most dramatically by this episode is something that Vatican observers have been noting consistently during this papacy in contrast to the previous pontificate: an amazing lack of consideration of the ramifications of papal actions, and a profound lack of collegial consultation,” said Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director of Interreligious Affairs.


The result, Rosen said, is that time and again the Vatican has ended up “running to put out fires” when it “could have prevented the distress to others and the harm to itself in the first place.”


The most recent flare-up is a case in point.


Benedict announced on Jan. 24 that he had lifted the 1988 excommunication of the British-born Williamson and three other members of the Society of St. Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group that rejects some of the reforms of the 1962-65 Vatican II Council. The council’s Nostra Aetate document paved the way for formal Jewish-Catholic dialogue by repudiating collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus.


Just days before Benedict’s announcement, Swedish TV had broadcast an interview with Williamson in which he denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claimed that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been killed in the Holocaust rather than the more accepted number of 6 million.


While the reinstatement of the four bishops was an internal Catholic matter aimed at fostering Catholic unity, Williamson’s rehabilitation triggered anger, outrage and a measure of disbelief around the world.


“The Vatican has done far more than set back Vatican-Jewish relations,” the scholar Deborah Lipstadt, an expert on Holocaust denial, wrote on her blog. “It has made itself look like it is living in the darkest of ages.”


Condemnation rolled in from Jewish groups, Holocaust survivors, U.S. legislators, Israeli leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as from elements within the Catholic Church.


Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican point man on relations with the Jewish world, complained that he had not been consulted about the matter and did not know about it in advance.


Even more remarkably, the Vatican said the pope himself had not been aware of Williamson’s views.


In a frenzy of damage control, the Vatican issued statements trying to clarify the issue and eventually ordered Williamson to recant his remarks on the Holocaust. Williamson apologized for causing the pope “unnecessary distress and problems” with his “imprudent” statements – but to date he has not retracted his stated views.


On Feb. 12, the pope met at the Vatican with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, his first meeting with Jewish leaders since the crisis.


Any denial or “minimization” of the Holocaust, Benedict told them, is “intolerable and altogether unacceptable.” The Church, he said, is “profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism, and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities.”


Benedict also personally announced his upcoming trip to Israel, which also will include stops in the West Bank and Jordan.


Some Jewish representatives at the meeting hailed the pope’s words.


“We came a long way,” Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue in New York told reporters after the meeting. “We traveled to share our pain, to share our disbelief, but we are leaving with renewed hope of stronger bonds between Catholics and Jews.”


Others were more circumspect.


“This meeting was an effort to reconcile, to bring closure, but it didn’t lay this issue to rest,” Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman, who also attended the meeting, told JTA.


“You cannot say that we oppose anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and then reinstate a denier,” Foxman said. “Every day that Williamson remains” a member of the Church “is an affront. There needs to be action on Williamson, so we know that there are no Williamsons in the Church hierarchy.”


Vatican-Jewish relations have been under close scrutiny since Benedict was elected pontiff in April 2005. His predecessor, the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, made fostering Jewish-Catholic relations and promoting awareness of the Holocaust a major focus of his reign.


Benedict was John Paul’s “most trusted theological right hand,” Rosen said.


From the beginning, Benedict indicated he would continue John Paul’s policy toward the Jews. He met with Jewish leaders and made historic visits to synagogues in Germany and the United States.


His own history played a role: Benedict grew up in what he has described as a staunchly anti-Nazi family, but like other German teenagers he was forced to join Hitler Youth. He deserted the German army before the end of World War II.


Now 81, Benedict undoubtedly is the last pope who will have witnessed the Holocaust era firsthand.


While welcoming his synagogue visits, the Jewish community has chafed at some of Benedict’s policies.


The most persistent thorn in the community’s side has been the ongoing controversy over the role of the wartime pope, Pius XII, whom the Vatican plans to beatify. Many historians say Pius turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, but his defenders say he worked behind the scenes to save Jews.


Jewish groups have called on the Vatican to open its archives to resolve the issue.


Another rift occurred last year when Benedict reinstated a Latin Mass for Easter that includes a prayer some understand as calling for the conversion of the Jews. The Vatican amended the prayer somewhat after Jews voiced concern.


“Decisions that the Church is making for its own use and needs are having unintended consequences and spilling into Jewish-Catholic relations,” Foxman observed.


Many Jews remain unsatisfied. Last month, Italian Jewish leaders took the extraordinary step of boycotting the Church’s annual celebration of Judaism.


In this context, Benedict’s trip to Israel will be watched closely.


It will be the first papal trip to the Holy Land since John Paul II’s historic five-day pilgrimage in 2000. Memorably, he placed a prayer note in the Western Wall asking for forgiveness for Christian persecution of Jews over the centuries and pledged Catholic brotherhood with the Jews.

(JTA)

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Pope Looks To Mend Vatican-Jewish Relations”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF soldiers examine fragments from a rocket that landed near Kibbutz El Rom, fired from Syria on July 14, 2014.
IDF Soldier Wounded by Syrian Mortar Fire on Golan Heights
Latest News Stories
Gaza may have been turned upside down, but at least Hamas managed to kill a few Jews.

Nearly 90 percent of Gaza residents support attacks on Israel, say rockets help ‘deterrence’

Israeli Police sapper inspecting a mortar shell fired from Gaza Strip in Eshkol Regional Council earlier this year.

Chaim Yellin: We don’t want government support. We need quiet in the morning.

IDF soldiers examine fragments from a rocket that landed near Kibbutz El Rom, fired from Syria on July 14, 2014.

Mortar fire crossed the border into northern Israel from Syria near Quneitra. Two cars were damaged. Accidental shelling?

North Miami Beach Police shield.

NYC lawmaker Laurie Cumbo presses Miami-Dade officials to find Rabbi Joseph Raksin’s murderer.

Former US Middle East envoy Martin Indyk warns Israel’s self-defense in Gaza has increased tensions with Washington – again.

A baby was hurt when Palestinian terrorists stoned the car she was driving in near the Samaria community of Yitzhar this morning. According to reports on the Hebrew-language 0404 website, the driver of the vehicle escaped the scene of the attack and reached a nearby IDF base safely. There, the baby was treated for her […]

The Zara clothing firm fell ‘fashion flat’ with a toddler tee allegedly a “sheriff’s shirt” in Israel – bearing a yellow, 6-pointed star.

The majority of the reactions are against the truce, and all voiced skepticism about its viability.

Released for Publication: The IDF has released the names of the 2 killed by Hamas mortars yesterday…

Simon Wiesenthal Center called on US to denounce the rigged UNHRC Commission on Gaza.

Neither side achieved its stated goal: the Gaza blockade will not be lifted and Hamas will not be disarmed.

Asher Schwartz, the JewishPress.com cartoonist lives 2 blocks away from the house that was hit Tuesday morning by the new Hamas rocket. All the windows in his apartment were blown out from the blast (and his neighbor’s windows too). His ears are ringing. Keep safe Asher.

“The time has come for us to say, that our true war is not aimed at opening the border crossings. Our true war is aimed at the liberation of Jerusalem, Allah willing.”

One of the seriously wounded people from the Hamas rocket attack on the Eshkol region has died…

Hamas and other Gazan terrorists fired 4,594 rockets and mortars at Israel…

The parents of missing American yeshiva student Aharon Sofer issue a video plea and offer a reward for their son’s return.

More Articles from Ruth Ellen Gruber
Pope Benedict XVI in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial during a visit to Israel in May 2009. The pope announced this week that he would resign at the end of the month.

ROME – Pope Benedict XVI’s eight-year reign as head of the world’s 1 billion Catholics sometimes was a bumpy one for the Vatican’s relations with Israel and the wider Jewish community. But it was also a period in which relations were consolidated and fervent pledges made to continue interfaith dialogue and bilateral cooperation.

ROME – Always uneasy, the relationship between the Vatican and the Jewish community took another sour turn recently when Pope Benedict XVI announced he was rescinding the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.

ROME – Always uneasy, the relationship between the Vatican and the Jewish community took another sour turn recently when Pope Benedict XVI announced he was rescinding the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/pope-looks-to-mend-vatican-jewish-relations/2009/02/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: