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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

Chief Rabbis Praise Vatican for ‘Banning Terror in God’s Name’

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel on Thursday reacted to the election of Pope Francis I by highlighting his predecessors’ “rich and fruitful dialogue …with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on primary issues such as banning terrorism in God’s Name, the sanctity of life and the sanctity of the family unit.”

The office of the Chief Rabbis said the dialogue led to Pope Benedict XVI “to heed the Chief Rabbinate’s request and suspend Holocaust-denier Bishop Richard Williamson, and the modification of sections of the Good Friday liturgy that were harsh and insulting towards the Jewish People.”

The Rabbinate also noted statements by Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II that “Jews are the elder brothers, and even the parents, of Christian believers.”

They added that both popes joined the fight against anti-Semitism n Europe and elsewhere,

“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is confident that Pope Francis, whose good relations with the Jewish People are well known, will keep the same spirit, and strengthen and develop the Roman Catholic Church’s connections with the State of Israel and the Jewish People,” the office of Israel’s two chief rabbis added.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Jewish Leaders Praise New Pope

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Jewish leaders praised the new Pope Francis, Argentinean Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and expressed optimism for an improvement of Vatican-Jewish relations after he was elected Wednesday night to replace Pope Benedict XVI.

“We have every reason to be confident Pope Francis I will be a staunch defender of the historic Nostra Aetate, the declaration on the relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council, which forever changed the relationship of the Catholic Church and the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Bergoglio, 76, a Jesuit, was the choice of the College of Cardinals following two days of voting in Vatican City. He is the first pope to come from outside Europe in more than a millennium; reflecting the changing demographics of Catholics, he comes from Latin America.

Rabbi David Rosen, the director of interfaith affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told JTA that the new pope is a “warm and sweet and modest man” known in Buenos Aires for doing his own cooking and personally answering his phone.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio attended Rosh Hashanah services at the Bnei Tikva Slijot synagogue in September 2007.  Bergoglio told the congregation that he was there to examine his heart “like a pilgrim, together with you, my elder brothers,” according to the Catholic Zenit news agency.

After the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, he “showed solidarity with the Jewish community,” Rosen said.

In 2005, Bergoglio was the first public personality to sign a petition for justice in the AMIA bombing and was one of the signatories on a document called “85 victims, 85 signatures” as part of the bombing’s 11th anniversary. In June 2010, he visited the rebuilt AMIA building to talk with Jewish leaders.

Israel Singer, former head of the World Jewish Congress, said he spent time working with Bergoglio when the two were distributing aid to the poor in Buenos Aires in the early 2000s, part of a joint Jewish-Catholic program called Tzedaka.

“We went out to the barrios where Jews and Catholics were suffering together,” Singer told JTA. “If everyone sat in chairs with handles, he would sit in the one without. He was always looking to be more modest. He’s going to find it hard to wear all these uniforms.”

Bergoglio also wrote the forward of a book by Rabbi Sergio Bergman and referred to him as “one of my teachers.”

Last November, Bergoglio hosted a Kristallnacht memorial event at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Rabbi Alejandro Avruj from the NCI-Emanuel World Masorti congregation.

He also has worked with the Latin American Jewish Congress and held meetings with Jewish youth who participate in its New Generations program.

“The Latin American Jewish Congress has had a close relationship with Jorge Bergoglio for several years,” Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, told JTA. “We know his values and strengths. We have no doubt he will do a great job leading the Catholic Church.”

Jewish Press Staff

Goodbye to a Good Pope

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The big news yesterday was that due to issues with his health Pope Benedict is resigning as Pope effective February 28th… in just a couple of weeks.

Why should an Orthodox Jew care what goes on in the Catholic Church? Well… when a religion boasts membership in the billions, what happens there definitely affects us. Not in any theological way. But most certainly in a sociological one.

The fact that The Catholic Church is the direct and unbroken chain of Christianity going back to the 2nd Temple era… and that their religion stems from Jewish roots add to that importance. So too does the fact that the Jewish people and the Church have been intimately intertwined over the two millennia since Christianity’s founding – mostly not for the better. I need not go into all the pogroms and other anti Semitic acts perpetrated against the Jewish people in the name of their religion. Suffice it to say that it was responsible for much carnage toward our people.

That of course all changed with Vatican II. Although many Jews are still suspect about the motives of the Church and believe it to be just a new ploy in trying to convert us, I believe that the change in their attitude was sincere. They no longer consider us ‘Christ killers.’ They no longer say that Judaism has lost its legitimacy and has been replaced by Christianity. They now consider us their ‘older brother’ religion and quite legitimate.

Since Vatican II there has been great progress between the Catholic church and the Jewish people. Our relationship has never been better. And the current Pope deserves credit for that. No one said it better than this:

“During his period (as pope) there were the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue,” “I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” “(I wish the Pope) good health and long days.

These are the words of Rabbi Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel. I could not have said better myself. I hope that the next Pope will be no worse… and that relations continue to improve.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

Obamacare And That Religious Exemption

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The Affordable Health Care Act is the official title of what has become known, primarily to its opponents, as Obamacare. It provides for a variety of changes in the American health care system and has generated enormous controversy, some of which will be the focus of the Supreme Court in the next few months. But debate over the mandated coverage of the cost of birth control has erupted over the past two weeks and may well roil the political waters during the presidential campaign season, depending how Obamacare fares in its Supreme Court test.

Among the Obamacare requirements, employer-provided health insurance plans must cover various means of birth control. The Catholic Church and leaders of some other faiths had sought a broad exemption for religious institutions that oppose birth control. However, on January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services, with presidential approval, adopted a much narrower exemption and the ensuing controversy began boiling over.

The HHS religious exemption applies only to organizations that primarily restrict their employment and services to members of their own faith. This would include houses of worship and parochial schools but would not include institutions like hospitals; social service agencies, charities and institutions of higher learning sponsored and run by a religious entity that opposes contraception on religious grounds.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argues that the narrow religious exemption is an appropriate attempt “to strike the right balance” between respecting religious beliefs and “increasing women’s access to critical preventive health services.”

Yet it is not quite that simple. The bottom line is that it would force an entity like the Catholic Church, which sponsors a broad array of secular programs servicing the larger community, to underwrite activity it believes to be sinful in order to continue those efforts.

This is an issue that has legs, especially in this presidential political season. The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan wrote a column titled, “A Battle the President Can’t Win” in which she suggested that with his approval of the HHS rule, “…President Obama just may have lost the election.” She noted that there are 77.7 million Catholics in the United States who in 2008 made up 27 percent of the electorate. Significantly, Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote, 54 percent to 45 percent. Ms. Noonan also pointed out that “a lot of Catholics” live in “the battleground states.” Catholic League head Bill Donohue spoke of a broad-based public attack on the rule and the mobilization of Catholic voters.

Apparently feeling the heat, David Axelrod, a senior political adviser to President Obama, went out of his way to defend the narrow religious exemption but also seemed to back off ever so slightly. Speaking in an MSNBC interview, he said the administration didn’t intend to “abridge anyone’s religious freedom” with the new regulation.

“This is an important issue,” he said. “It’s important for millions of women around the country. We want to resolve it in an appropriate way and we’re going to do that.” But significantly, he added that he was “less concerned about the messaging of this than finding a resolution that makes sense,” noting that affected institutions have more than a year and a half to come into compliance and that “I think we need to lower our voices and get together.”

The issue of contraception is traditionally identified with the Catholic Church and so is the current coverage controversy. Yet the Jewish community certainly has an interest in the issue of contraception coverage, though it has nothing approaching the social service and charitable structure of the Catholic Church.

Our community certainly shares in the concern for any governmental policy that imposes a substantial burden on the religious sector’s ability to adhere to religious tenets. We must follow this story as it unfolds and be heard.

Editorial Board

Yael And Sisera In Art And Propaganda

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain

Through November 1, 2009

The National Gallery of Art

4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

http://www.nga.gov/

 

 

When charged by the Prophetess Deborah, in Judges to free the Jews from the tyranny of Sisera, general of the Canaanite king Jacin’s army, Barak the son of Abinoam famously responded with the biblical equivalent of “I’m right behind you.” Deborah agreed to accompany Barak to Kedesh but told him Sisera would die by a woman’s hand. Barak accepted the terms, and Sisera was eventually lured into Yael’s tent, where she fed him milk to make him drowsy and drove a tent peg through his head.

 

Rather than treating the assassination as obscene (literally “off stage” in Greek drama), Judges 4:21 is intentionally gruesome. Not only did Sisera get pegged, Yael also hammered the nail right through the general’s head and the tip became lodged in the ground. Yet, the narrative is short on other details, allowing for many different artistic depictions of the story.

 

 

Heterogeneous suit of armor of Charles V. Desiderius Helmschmid. C. 1543.

 

 

The first illustration of Judges 4 of which I’m aware is a watercolor by Pietro Cavallini dated to the 13th-14th centuries. The work is at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, whose website calls the work “Jael and Tisseran” – though the work contains an inscription, “Jael and Siserah (Tiseran).” In the piece, Sisera lies in a courtyard with his head resting on a pillow as Yael holds a peg to his head and readies the hammer. An older woman, of Cavallini’s invention, covers Sisera with a cloth, and the general raises his arms defensively, semi-aware of his fate. Perhaps Cavallini included the extra-biblical woman because he thought the lowly wife of Heber the Kenite needed an accomplice to manage a political assassination, or maybe the woman is Sisera’s mother, who worries in Judges 5:28 that her son’s chariot is delayed.

 

Several other 15th century pieces treat the scene a bit differently. A c. 1430 miniature by the Netherlandish Master of Otto van Moerdrecht shows Sisera, clad in ochre, lying in a bed covered by a bright red blanket in a house with a black-and-white checkerboard floor. Yael, dressed in deep blue, stands behind the sleeping general and leans over him, holding a nail to his head and raising the hammer. An illumination from the 15th-century German manuscript “Speculum humanae salvationis” (Mirror of Human Salvation) shows Sisera lying outdoors on a grassy slope bearing a shield with a cheveron (v-shape).

 

 

Pedro N??ez del Valle. “Jael and Sisera.” C. 1630. Oil on canvas. 48 13/16 x 52 3/8 in. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

 

 

The several dozen other works that precede Pedro N??ez del Valle’s 1630 “Jael and Sisera,” currently on exhibit at the National Gallery, feature other oddities. Some have pillars, some show large pegs and others small nails, one shows Sisera in bed with a wine goblet, and in some Sisera wears a crown. A late 14th century manuscript juxtaposes Yael and Sisera with Judith and the beheaded Holofernes, and Sisera’s shield is decorated with a human face. Medieval artists tended to depict with Yael posing with the hammer, about to strike the general, or the aftermath of the assassination. In a 1481 wood cut, one unknown artist somehow figured Yael would manage to drive the peg through the side of Sisera’s helmet!

 

What is unique about Pedro N??ez del Valle’s work though is its function not only as biblical interpretation, but also as political propaganda. The National Gallery exhibit, in an unprecedented fashion, matches Spanish imperial portraits with the corresponding suits of armor, so viewers can actually see the armor and the paintings depicting the armor side by side. Needless to say, this ingenious curatorial decision helps collapse the several thousand years that have passed since the works were created.

 

In N??ez del Valle’s work, the curators notice that Sisera wears armor of the Roman-pagan style (Image Two). Sisera’s breastplate features a head of medusa and his armor and shin guards evoke a suit of armor presented to Phillip II as a gift. Barak’s armor, meanwhile, is in the Spanish style, so N??ez del Valle has literally cast the good guys (Spain) in the heroic pose (Barak’s), and the bad guys (Romans, pagans) as Sisera’s corpse.

 

 

 

Roman-style armor of Guiobaldo della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, presented as a gift to Phillip II. Bartolomeo Campi, 1546.

 

 

Writing in the catalog, Carmen Garcia-Frias Checa quotes a scholar who argues the painting features “a parallel between the theme of Jael as liberator of the people of Israel from Canaanite oppression and the allegory of Spain as the great succorer of the Catholic faith against heretics.”

 

The Catholic reference might be a plausible (albeit symbolic) read of the work, but Garcia-Frias Checa should have also discussed another work on Yael and Sisera that shows Sisera in Roman-style armor. Dirck Volkertsz Coornhert’s 1551 engraving shows a rather muscular Yael about to hammer the nail into Sisera’s head. Sisera, who lies on a bed, wears the same armor with the same medusa and leg guards, and he lies in virtually the same position (though inverted) as he does in N??ez del Valle’s work. Whether N??ez del Valle would have been familiar with Coornhert’s engraving is debatable, but the engraving does show that not only was Roman-style armor used in biblical scenes nearly a century before N??ez del Valle, but they were even used in interpretations of the Yael and Sisera story. N??ez del Valle might have introduced the Barak figure in Spanish armor, but Sisera’s pagan attire was already an artistic tradition.

 

Dirck Volkertsz Coornhert, after Maarten van Heemskerck. “Jael Slaying Sisera.” From “The Power of Women,” 1551. Engraving and etching.

 

If Garcia-Frias Checa is right, Spain would be presented not as the victor per se, but as the male leader showing up to take credit after the heroine had done all the dirty work. Yael still holds the murder weapon in her hand, and the peg is clearly visible piercing Sisera’s skull. Perhaps this is reading the scene too literally, but one would expect that N??ez del Valle could have picked a better narrative to illustrate the might of the Catholic Church, if that was his aim, like David and Goliath or Samson killing a Philistine.

 

Either way, that the Catholic Church would identify itself with a Jewish general like Barak less than 150 years after expelling the Jews from Spain is surely noteworthy, even if it is just a symbolic comparison. For that, we can thank the National Gallery for its brilliant curatorial decision to examine both the paintings and the armor.

 

Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, D.C.

Menachem Wecker

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

Baseball Fan

I’ve come to admire the depth of knowledge that Jason Maoz regularly displays in his Media Monitor column, but I had no idea he could write so eloquently and knowledgeably on baseball as well (“The Vanishing Jewish Baseball Player,” front-page essay, April 8).

You obviously timed the article’s appearance to coincide with the start last week of the new baseball season, and reading it certainly increased my enjoyment of the return of America’s Pastime after a long, dreary winter during which we sports fans in the New York area had to suffer through a season-killing hockey strike and the less than inspiring efforts of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets.

Please feature more articles on Jews and professional sports. Readers like me can’t get enough of that stuff.

Ira Lekachman
New York, NY



Only One Subject?

Rather than feature articles about baseball, you should be screaming to the heavens every week about the betrayal of Israel by the disaster named Ariel Sharon. I’d like to see you have full coverage, front page to back, of the betrayal of Jewish settlers and the jettisoning of the concept of a complete Israel by the likes of Sharon, Olmert, et al.

That’s the only subject you should be talking about. Forget the other news stories, the Torah columns, the social register, baseball, agunas, and whatever else might occupy us – the upcoming disengagement plan should be the sole object of our concern. For the next few months, change the name of the paper to “The Gaza Press” and devote all your energies to reporting and analyzing the tragedy as it unfolds.

Some readers may laugh and call me obsessed, but I think there are others just like me. All I can think of right now is the looming Gaza disengagement, and I don’t have the time or the interest to concentrate on anything else.

Goldie Witkin
(Via E-Mail)



Come Home, Dr. Schick

God bless Marvin Schick and thank you, Jewish Press, for publishing Dr. Schick’s op-ed article (“Lead Us By Teaching,” April 8). I miss reading Marvin Schick in the pages of The Jewish Press – I vividly recall his many years as a weekly columnist for your paper – but I refuse to purchase the scandal-mongering paper that carries his subsidized column.

How good it was to read Dr. Schick’s thoughts in The Jewish Press, and I hope to see more of him in this paper. Dr. Schick: come home to The Jewish Press and leave that other paper to its Federation-worshiping, Orthodox-badgering, alternative Judaism-championing ways.

Zechariah Strasser
(Via E-Mail)



Eidelberg’s Tap

Paul Eidelberg gives us his usual excellent analysis in his April 8 column. Any rational, humane and civilized person reading with full understanding Professor Eidelberg’s assessment of the nature of Israel’s current enemy must shudder in revulsion and apprehension.

The tragic reality is that in such a perilous time, Israel is in need of leaders with the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of the Maccabees, and the love of Israel and the Jewish people akin to that displayed by our many tzaddikim down through Jewish history.

The reason I shudder in revulsion and apprehension is because I see instead an Israeli Supreme Court transforming the country into a secular state. I see a secular prime minister devoid of the courage and planning skills he once showed as a military commander. I see a prime minister foolish enough to reappoint Shimon Peres, whose legacy is a pathetic record of failure and disaster, and whose agenda has been overwhelmingly rejected by Israeli voters time after time after time.

We should perhaps regard all this adversity as a warning – a tap on the shoulder to get our attention. Mr. Eidelberg got mine.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY



Views Misrepresented

It is most unfortunate that The Jewish Press chose to run an inaccurate article from Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) without contacting any of the rabbis who were maligned (“YU Rabbis Approve Disengagement,” April 8).

The panel discussion was an internal educational program allowing YU students to hear differing religious perspectives on issues in Israel. The questions analyzed were whether it is halachically permissible for the Israeli government to adopt a plan which it deemed necessary for Israel’s security and political needs – even if it involved giving away territory – and whether opponents of such a plan serving in the Israeli army should be mesarev pekuda (permitted to refuse orders).

I made the point at the outset of the discussion that being a rabbi does not me give any expert knowledge about security and that I would focus on the halachic status of Israel as a Jewish state.

Rabbi Charlop strongly denounced any plan that would include giving land to the Palestinian Arabs. Rabbi Lamm and I, with different formulations, said that Mitzvat Yishuv Haaretz is not an absolute (yehareg V’lo Yaavor) and is outweighed by pikuach nefesh. No one said that the Sharon disengagement plan met that criterion.

Siruv Pekuda, encouraged by rabbinical leaders, has serious consequences for the religious role in determining the Jewish content of Israel and Rabbi Lamm and I opposed it, while Rabbi Charlop did not believe that it would happen.

The views expressed have been said publicly by many prominent rabbis. The notion that there is only one religious perspective on these issues and any one who disagrees should be publicly attacked is not consistent with our tradition and is dangerous.

Rabbi Yosef Blau
New York, NY
 


Death Of A Pope


The Good That He Did

I must take issue with reader Avraham (John) Forcella, who winced at the comments of Jewish leaders towards the late pope (Letters, April 8). It is true that John Paul II made many mistakes, but as a person he was fallible. Certain mistakes will be remembered, such as the Nicaragua pilgrimage of 1983 or his stand on contraception and liberalization of certain aspects of the Roman Catholic church.

Unfortunately, the pope did live in a real world and he had to stand on the balcony with Pinochet, say nice things about Arafat and keep his mouth shut when Bashir Assad was spouting off. That is called diplomacy.

Past popes have not all been a particularly pleasant bunch. The attitude of Pius XII toward Jews was made quite clear in his reports from Poland right after the first world war. Yet only sixty years before this Jews had been locked in the ghettos by the popes while those outside the papal domains were free. One can also mention the Inquisition, Crusades, Catholic colonization of America and, of course, ultimate responsibility for the Shoah.

What John Paul II did was show the way forward, the path that the church needs to take in the future. While fighting liberation theology on one hand, he reached out to people of other faiths and went further than could ever have been expected in admitting past Catholic evil.

What really impressed me the most was the way in which the synagogue here in Warsaw was packed with non-Jews for the memorial service to the late pope. This indicates how his teaching has reached the hearts of ordinary people and demonstrates to me that there can be no turning back to the wrongs of the past.

Alan Heath
Publisher
Polish Business News
Warsaw, Poland



Right Tone

Congratulations for perhaps the most thoughtful comments I have read on Pope John Paul II and his relationship with the Jews (editorial, April 8). You carefully articulated the gratitude many feel for the historic changes the pope instituted in the approach of the Catholic Church to Jews. You also conveyed concern over the incongruity and significance of his embrace pf Arafat and Waldheim and his shocking silence in the face of Assad’s blood libel.

On the face of it, in terms of Jewish/Catholic relations we Jews are better off than we were before Karol Wojtyla’s ascension to the papacy in 1978. But there persists the nagging sense that at the end of the day, even to someone like him, we were not considered fully “regular” after all.

Herman Simons
New York, NY



Not Positive Enough

I strongly disagree with your editorial on the death of John Paul II. It is undeniable, as even you concede, that he made the world a safer place for Jews. Why, then, can you not bring yourselves to fully acknowledge that contribution? It almost seems as though you have some fear of appearing to legitimize the pope’s accomplishments.

I think the Orthodox community in particular should have seized on the pope’s death as an opportunity to show his successor – and the Catholic Church itself – that we know how to say thanks and that we are capable of viewing gentiles as sincere and decent human beings. All too often our attitude toward non-Jews is one of blanket fear and condemnation, combined with a sense of superiority that would put many a redneck bigot to shame. And then we wonder why that attitude is returned against us – in spades.

Moshe Goldman
(Via E-Mail)



Mr. Goldman, Meet Mr. Deutsch

Who made The Jewish Press the spokesman for the Jews? Did you ask a shaylah whether you are permitted to say nice things about an avoda zara? Who said you could publish a photo of a pope wearing a cross for all to see?

The world’s attention was gripped for days by the death of a leader of Christianity, and this will result in great problems for the Jewish people. I don’t care what political benefits he was responsible for, or whether he was good for Israel.

Berel Deutsch
(Via E-Mail)



A Finger In The Eye

It’s very nice that the pope apologized for what his church did to the Jews over the centuries. I happened to see the news clip of that event and was infuriated by the deliberate, flat and undramatic manner in which he read the statement off a piece of paper. A little more passion and emotion would have been in order.

And wasn’t this the same pope who was pushing to have Pius XII, of all people, turned into a saint? Given the raging controversy over what Pius did or didn’t do to help the Jews during the Holocaust, the effort to have Pius canonized was like poking a finger in our eye.

Boris Solomonov
Jerusalem

Letters to the Editor

The Pope’s Mixed Legacy

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

The foremost memory of John Paul II will be for his heart. When I conjure up an image of the pope, it is invariably in connection with some gesture of warmth and loving kindness to a child, to a widow, to the poor.

John Paul’s ministry was devoted principally to the suffering third-world countries and his dedication to those in pain made him justly famous, inspired our own goodness, and electrified the world. I confess, even as a non-Catholic, to a considerable sadness at his passing, attached as I am to the image of an elderly and gentle man, battling illness and weakness, continuing to shower affection on the suffering masses.

In this sense, the papacy of John Paul will forever be remembered as an outstanding success because his life and the symbol he came to represent established religion’s foremost premise: that leading a Godly life makes one into a Godly individual, that a life of faith transforms its practitioner into an exemplar of compassion. The exemplary love that the pope came to represent was in itself a healing of sorts for those who looked at the all-too-questionable history of the Catholic Church and wondered whether hypocrisy was at its core.

The pope brought a luster and a majesty to the Catholic Church seldom seen in a man of world religious stature and in this sense may even be considered Christendom’s greatest pope because of the long ministry of love that he practiced. For this reason, all who call themselves religious owe John Paul a debt of gratitude for the respectability he brought to all who believe in God.

But for all that, John Paul’s legacy will be mixed. He rose to the challenge of defeating communism early in his pontificate but failed considerably to condemn the terrorist threat at the end of his pontificate.

As the Solidarity movement in Poland began to pick up steam in the late seventies and early eighties, the world waited with apprehension for the inevitable Russian invasion to squash the boisterous pro-democracy movement. At that time John Paul II, still a very new pope, wrote a letter to the secretary of the Soviet Communist party saying that he would resign the papacy to join the front lines of Solidarity if Russian tanks entered his homeland. With that letter, he helped to save Poland and is justly commended for playing an integral role in the collapse of communism.

And yet, twenty years later, as George W. Bush prepared the world for an invasion of Iraq in order to rid that country of the world’s most brutal tyrant, who had already slaughtered and gassed more than a million of his own people, the pope saw it fit not only to oppose the war in Iraq, but to summon Tariq Azziz, Saddam’s diplomatic puppet, place his holy hands on Azziz’s head, and say, “God bless Iraq.”

That an American politician could have seen Saddam’s evil and scoffed at world censure in order to topple a barbarous dictator, while the world’s foremost religious authority was gripped by an inexplicable moral blindness, shall forever remain a stain on the legacy of an otherwise great man.

Two years later, the pope followed up this bizarre practice by offering draw-dropping comments on the occasion of the death of Yasir Arafat: “At this hour of sadness at the passing of President Yasir Arafat, His Holiness Pope John Paul is particularly close to the deceased’s family, the authorities and the Palestinian people. While entrusting his soul into the hands of the Almighty and Merciful God, the Holy Father prays to the Prince of Peace that the star of harmony will soon shine on the Holy Land.”

In a second statement, Joachim Navarro Valls said in the pope’s name that Arafat was “a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them towards national independence. May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land.”

That the world’s foremost spiritual shepherd could describe himself as being close Arafat’s family, rather than the thousands of murdered men, women, and children who were Arafat’s victims, was an astonishing act of sacrilege. That the most influential religious figure alive could describe the death of a terrorist as “an hour of sadness” and call a mass murderer an “illustrious” soul was downright frightening. That the man Catholics regard as the Vicar of Christ on earth could have said of someone who stole billions from his impoverished and desperate nation that he “loved his people” is an affront to everything Jesus stood for.

Likewise, the pope chose not to use his considerable authority to condemn Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda network, and the many other terrorist organizations that have made a once-peaceful planet so dangerous to inhabit.

How can we understand such actions and such comments coming from a man who I do not question for a moment was devoted with all his heart to the human family? How could such a genuinely pious man have unwitting allied himself with such unspeakable evil? And how could a leader of such incredible love have shown such callous indifference to victims of torture and murder by blessing and praising their murderers?

The great failing of John Paul’s life was that he actually loved too much. Like a parent who cannot see the failings of a child, John Paul refused to accept that real evil lurks in the heart of men. John Paul II so loved God’s children that he could not see that there were those whose actions had erased the image of God from their own countenance and forever severed themselves from a compassionate Creator.

John Paul loved the innocent but he never hated the wicked. He loved justice, but he all too seldomly condemned injustice. He fought for the poor and the oppressed, but he would not fight their oppressors – the exception being Soviet oppressors. Declaring in word and deed that hatred of any sort was an ungodly emotion that dare not be given sanctuary in the human heart, John Paul II never summoned the faithful to have contempt for the wicked, instead extending them the considerable softness of his gentle touch.

The result of such misguided affection is that as the pope departs this world, loved and sincerely admired by the earth’s inhabitants, he leaves behind a planet where it is American soldiers, fighting and dying for democracy around the globe, who are doing more to create a Godly habitat on earth than even John Paul’s priests and pastors.

As a Jew, I shall forever remain indebted to John Paul for the respect and affection he extended to the Jewish people. The pope twice visited the Rome’s synagogue, diplomatically recognized the State of Israel, wrote movingly of the wonders of Judaism in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, visited the State of Israel, and met endlessly with Jewish leaders through the long years of his reign.

But as an American I shall remain saddened that as the world joined in a chorus of condemnation of the American people for removing the Taliban in Afghanistan and establishing a democracy in Iraq, the pope did not remind the nations of the world that the real enemy is not those who fight evil, but those who soil God’s green earth by drenching it in the blood of innocents.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a nationally syndicated talk radio host and the author of several best-selling books. His newest book, Hating Women: America’s Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex (ReganBooks/HarperCollins), is due out this week.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

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