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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Jewish’

Pope Condemns Catholics who Disrupted Kristallnacht Ceremony

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Pope Francis, reacting to the disruption of a recent interfaith Kristallnacht memorial in Buenos Aires, Argentina, told Latin American religious leaders visiting the Vatican that “aggression cannot be an act of faith.”

“Preaching intolerance is a form of militancy that must be overcome,” Francis told the delegation on Tuesday.

The pope made his remarks a week after fundamentalist Christians disrupted a Jewish-Christian ceremony at a Buenos Aires cathedral marking the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom.

“Pope Francis has already had a number of meetings with leaders of other faiths, but he never fails to surprise us with his sensitivity and the deep interest he shows for his interlocutors,” said Claudio Epelman, the executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

Epelman, also the head of World Jewish Congress relations with the Vatican, was part of a six-person delegation from South America who was received for a private audience with the pontiff.

“With this meeting, the pope has once again shown his strong, personal commitment to building bridges between religions and to working together with all of us to secure peace,” Epelman said.

Archbishop of Canterbury to Visit Western Wall and Al Aqsa Mosque

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is scheduled to arrive in Israel Wednesday as part of a five-day trip to the Middle East.

The archbishop is making sure to honor all three major religions, with visits planned to the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Welby, whose father’s German-Jewish family fled to the UK to escape anti-Semitism in the late 19th century, will also visit Yad VaShem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.

He also will attend the opening of an Arab Episcopal medical center in Ramallah, according to the London Guardian.

Pope Condemns Anti-Semitism at Vatican Summit with Jewish Leaders

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Pope Francis condemned anti-Semitism during a meeting on Monday with representatives of the international Jewish community at the Vatican.

“Because of our commons roots, a true Christian cannot be anti-Semitic,” Francis told a delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. He added that the Catholic Church “firmly condemns hatred, persecution and all manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

While he has met with several Jewish leaders since becoming pope, he said Monday’s meeting was the first time he has spoken with an official group of representatives of Jewish organizations and communities.

The pope reiterated that the 1965 declaration Nostra Aetate remained the key point of reference for Catholic relations with the Jewish people.  The declaration stresses the religious bond shared by Jews and Catholics, reaffirms the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, and calls for a halt to attempts to convert Jews.

“Representatives of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, and the World Jewish Congress also were in attendance.

Anti-Semitism On The Couch: A Conversation with Professor Robert Wistrich

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Robert S. Wistrich, a professor at Hebrew University and a leading scholar on anti-Semitism, published his 24th book last month: A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House, 1,200 pages).

Wistrich is the director of The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and, between 1999 and 2001, was one of six scholars who sat on a Catholic-Jewish historical commission that examined Pope Pius XII’s response to the Holocaust.

The Jewish Press spoke with Wistrich during his recent New York book tour.

The Jewish Press: Throughout history, anti-Semites have hated Jews for contradictory reasons. For example, Hitler famously dates the birth of his anti-Semitism to the day he saw a chassidic Jew, with his distinctive garb, walking the streets of Vienna. And yet, Hitler also detested German-Jewish newspaper editors, for instance, who had “infiltrated” and influenced German society. How do you explain this phenomenon?

Wistrich: Most accusations made by anti-Semites, and more recently by anti-Zionists, against the Jewish people are self-contradictory.

At one and the same time they will say that Jews are too tribalistic and particularistic, and that they’re universalists and cosmopolitans. They’ll accuse the Jews of inventing capitalism and at the same time they’ll claim they are the authors of communism or other forms of radical subversion. They’ll say that the Jews are all individualists and that they’re collectivists. They’ll accuse the Jews of being responsible for secularism and at the same time for religious fanaticism, and so on and so forth. The list of logical non-sequiturs and contradictions is truly amazing.

[These contradictions stem from a passionate hatred of Jews and] the rationalizations which are built upon that essentially emotional and psychic foundation are just that – rationalizations. And they have no more logic than that of the passion that drives the anti-Semitism in the first place.

So this passionate hatred is completely illogical in you view?

Well, there are some anti-Semitic themes that have a grain of truth in them – but no more than a grain.

For example, chosenness – the hatred of Jews that is linked to resentment at the idea of the Jews being the chosen people. Sometimes this resentment is religious, as in Christian and Islamic forms of competition with the Jews as being the chosen elect of God. And sometimes it’s purely secular and nationalist. There are even aspects of Nazism that can be interpreted as a kind of gross parody of the Judaic notion of chosenness transformed into a master race ideology.

I suppose from a psychoanalytic point of view – not that I necessarily invoke that – you can say there is an oedipal element in all of this. The Jews are seen as the model of chosenness, and in order to assert your own chosenness you have to overthrow that model or somehow negate it.

So anti-Semitism, then, is not completely pathological.

It’s not 100 percent pathological. There is, if you like, a rational kernel to anti-Semitism. When I say rational, I don’t mean that justifies it. I just mean there is a more banal logic to some moderate forms of anti-Semitism. For example, if you’re in competition for scarce resources with a group which is particularly successful in certain areas, it is not irrational that you might seek to gain an advantage at the expense of a group that you see as a dangerous competitor and use anti-Semitic arguments [to that end].

I regard that as a more banal kind of socioeconomic anti-Semitism of which there are many examples in history. It’s not necessarily life threatening, although I wouldn’t say it’s to be encouraged. The kind of anti-Semitism, however, that I devote more time to and focus on more intensely is reflected in the title of my book, A Lethal Obsession.

You have been writing and lecturing about anti-Semitism for over three decades. Did you discover anything new while writing this book?

There was one phenomenon I was aware of but only when I began to write this book did I realize its scale. That’s what I qualify as anti-racist anti-Semitism: people, generally on the left, who proclaim and genuinely believe they are opposed to all forms of racial discrimination, and yet make an exception for the Jews. In other words, in contrast to their self-proclaimed universalistic vision of things and their belief in human brotherhood and multiculturalism, they flirt with and sometimes even openly embrace ideas which I think I show to be fundamentally anti-Jewish.

In your book you write about the first recorded pogrom in Jewish history. When did that occur?

In Alexandria in the first century. Alexandria was a great city in the ancient world; it was more or less like New York today. Although situated in Egypt, it was under Roman rule at that time and the two dominant communities, which were rivals with one another, were the Greeks and the Jews. The Jews represented perhaps 30 percent of the population and were extremely prominent in many areas of commercial, cultural and intellectual life. The Greeks launched a pogrom against the Jews, and it was eventually suppressed by the Roman rulers.

Pope Pius XII is in the news again due to the current pope’s efforts to beatify him despite questions regarding his activities during the Holocaust. As one of only six members of a Catholic-Jewish historical commission set up by the Vatican and several American Jewish organizations 10 years ago to study the documents relating to this matter, what is your take on the controversy?

My take is that although it is entirely a matter for the Catholic Church and the Vatican to decide who qualifies as a saint in their own terms, I think the Jewish people has a right to express its concern at the fact that a leader of the Catholic faithful should be hailed for his heroic virtue while the available documentation at least casts grave doubt on his moral stance during his period.

But some people argue that Pope Pius XII helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

The evidence I have seen suggests that he may have helped some Jews but could have helped far more had he chosen to speak out a little more forthrightly about the mass murder that was taking place, of which he was very well informed.

My position is: Let historians examine the documents from his pontificate which have not yet been opened. The Vatican has said that in roughly four to six years, the available documentation – we are talking about several million documents – will become available to historians. So what’s the rush? Since it’s a controversial issue, since there are many people who have even accused Pope Pius XII of having been an accomplice of Nazi Germany or wishing for its success during World War II, why not wait?

And that’s my position. It’s not a dogmatic one. If evidence were to come to light that indeed he saved many Jewish lives, I’ll be the first to welcome that news.

Promoting Pius XII

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Ten years ago, the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission, established to investigate Pope Pius XII’s response to the Holocaust, met for the first time to discuss its future work. I was the only Israeli historian among the six scholars (three Catholics and three Jews) designated by the Vatican and leading Jewish organizations to study this hotly contested issue.

A little under two years later, the project was abandoned as a result of the Holy See’s unwillingness to release materials from its own archives that could help clarify issues our team of scholars raised in our provisional report. Already at that time there were moves afoot to place Pius XII on the fast track to sainthood, but they were probably slowed down by Israeli and Jewish protests and a desire by Church authorities to prevent a serious rupture in Catholic-Jewish relations.

At issue was the silence of Pius XII during the Holocaust and his indirect complicity in the Nazi mass murder of Jews. These allegations had prompted the Vatican to publish eleven volumes of its own documents (edited by four trusted Jesuit scholars), most of them appearing in the 1970s. It was these documents in Italian, German, French, Latin and English that we were originally asked to review. The million or so unpublished documents from the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958) will only be available in about four years.

It is in this context that we need to see the recent decree on the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII, just signed by Pope Benedict XVI. Most Jews have interpreted this act as yet another signal that the Vatican is determined to beatify the controversial wartime pope – regardless of what the historical evidence may indicate.

The sharp response of Jewish leaders to Benedict’s decree prompted the Vatican’s Press Office director, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., to release a conciliatory note distinguishing between the historical judgment of Pius XII’s actions (still an open question) and the saintly Christian life he apparently led. In particular, Father Lombardi was concerned to disclaim any notion that this decree was “a hostile act towards the Jewish people” or an obstacle to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Nevertheless, the decree on Pius XII raises concern not only about the continuing drive to beatify the wartime pontiff but also about the present pope and the state of relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.

I personally have never seen Pius XII either as “Hitler’s Pope” (the theory of British historian John Cornwell, a “lapsed” Catholic), or as the “Righteous Gentile” evoked by Rabbi David Dallin. My own provisional conclusion drawn from the study of thousands of documents is that the mass murder of Jews was fairly low on his list of priorities. Of course, much the same could be said of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, but they did not claim to be the “Vicar of Christ” or to represent the Christian conscience.

Pius XII strikes me as a polished diplomat far more worried about the Allied bombing of Rome than about the thousand Roman Jews who were being deported by the Germans to their deaths in Auschwitz, virtually under the windows of the Holy See. True, other Roman Jews were discreetly given sanctuary in ecclesiastical establishments in and around Rome after October 1943, but it remains unclear if this was the result of a direct papal instruction.

In some instances we know Pius XII did try to intervene against Nazi or racist anti-Semitic legislation, but in general this was almost always on behalf of baptized Jews since they were protected by the Church as Catholics. Pius’s rare references to the mass murder of Jews were invariably veiled and very abstract, as if he found it difficult to utter the word itself.

Was it fear of further German reprisals? A latent anti-Semitism? Was it his visceral anti-Communism that led him to hope for a Nazi victory in the East? Or perhaps the desire to spare German Catholics a conflict of conscience between their loyalty to Hitler, the fatherland, or their Church? Whatever the reasons, this was hardly heroic conduct.

So why has Benedict XVI chosen to take this step now? My own inclination is to think the present pope regards Pius XII as a soulmate, both theologically and politically. He shares with the wartime pontiff an authoritarian centralist world-view and a deep distrust of liberalism, modernity, and the ravages of moral relativism. He was 31 years old when Pius XII died in 1958, and already then regarded him as a venerated role model.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/promoting-pius-xii/2009/12/30/

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