Search this Topic:
Jan 15 16 6:09 AM
Pope Francis is the first Pope in the Roman Catholic Church to have published a book containing lengthy conversations with a rabbi, before his election. Abraham Skorka, the 65-year-old rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, became a great friend of the then archbishop Bergoglio. On Sunday 17 January the Pope will visit the Synagogue of Rome, the great Jewish temple that stands beyond the Tiber, a short distance from the Vatican. This will be the third time a Bishop of Rome enters the Synagogue, following John Paul II’s historic visit in 1986 and that of his successor Benedict XVI, in 2010. Rabbi Skorka, what was Archbishop Bergoglio’s relationship with Argentina’s Jewish community like? How did you come to write a book on your conversation together?“The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio, had a very special bond with the Argentinian Jewish community, demonstrated in numerous gestures, with which he expressed a profound commitment to relations with it and through it with Judaism as a whole. He forged some very deep and fond relationships like the one between us. This friendship, which grew through various encounters, in the sense Buber usually attributed to this term, allowed us to speak freely, without euphemisms. And so we wrote a book of conversations together, offering a joint analysis of the issues that are of greatest concern to mankind today. We went on to produce 31 television programmes with Marcelo Figueroa.” What was the distinguishing feature – if any – in Francis’ approach to the dialogue with Jewish faithful? And what are the elements of continuity with his predecessors? “On the one hand, Francis has continued the process of dialogue between Jews and Catholics begun by John XXIII and significantly furthered by John Paul II. At the same time, though, he left his own imprint on the development of this dialogue. If we take a close look at the Evangelii Gaudium chapter on relations with Judaism (247-249), we see that, just as John Paul II and Benedict XVI viewed the Jewish people as their “elder brothers” in the faith and the eternal validity of the Alliance between Israel and God, described in the Jewish Bible, so the current Pope reserves a special place for them in his apostolic exhortation. Despite the fact that the first articles in the aforementioned chapter emphasise only the teachings of his predecessors, the final paragraph mentions what Francis has to say on the subject. ‘God continues to act through the people of the Ancient Alliance and brings forth treasures of wisdom that derive from its encounter with the divine Word. As such the Church too is enriched by the values of Judaism… There is a rich complementarity that allows us to read the texts of the Jewish Bible and help each other to explore the Word’s riches’. In Buenos Aires we analysed verses from the Jewish Bible together on many occasions. It was a fundamental part of our dialogue. As Bergoglio was Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, the institution awarded me an honoris causa degree. The intention of this gesture was very clear: to honour and take into consideration the cultural and religious contribution of a rabbi in a majority Christian society. Francis’ contribution is his call to build on dialogue through exegetical and theological study while at the same time reinforcing the commitment towards a common effort in making the world a fairer and more just place. We are at the start of a journey that is taking us in this direction. This journey requires a great deal of reflection and intellectual and spiritual digging, as well as a compromise in the face of the big dramas affecting humanity at present.How do you interpret the history of Catholic-Jewish relations over the past 60 years? Which was the path chosen by John XXIII? And what contribution did John Paul II make?“John XXIII could see very clearly that Europe and the world was entering a new phase after World War Two, which called for a response and a message from the religions. So he laid the foundations for the Second Vatican Council. Having witnessed the tragedy of the Holocaust first hand and having saved the lives of many Jews as an apostolic delegate in Constantinople, he strove to do something about the lack of dialogue – which frequently implies hatred – between Jews and Christians and reverse this situation. In the new world that was to be built, that stain of blood and death needed to be removed. Nostra Aetate was the consequence of the great work he did in this field. This declaration acted as a catalyst for dialogue Jews and Christians engaged in on different levels. The process progressed through the subsequent declarations made by the Vatican commission for dialogue with Judaism. John Paul II was the second great advocate of the process’s continuity and development. His request for forgiveness for the mistakes the Church had made in relation to the Jewish people in the past, his historic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the State of Israel, the prayers he said at the (Western, Ed.)Wall are all signs that will shed his light on Jewish-Christian relations forevermore .”John Paul II’s visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1986 was a historic event. What recollection do you have of it? What can you say about Benedict XVI and his very deep theological reflections on the special relationship between Judaism and Christianity?“Both of the events you mentioned in your question were watershed moments in the history of the development of Jewish-Christian relations, for which the Nostra Aetate was a blueprint. John Paul II ended a painful chapter in the history of Rome because dialogue and respect had been lacking in relations between Rome’s Jews and the city’s bishop, the Pope. Walking at a normal pace, it takes about twenty minutes to get from the Vatican to the Great Temple of Rome. And yet it took centuries before a Pope made that journey. The embrace between John Paul II and Rabbi Elio Toaff at the start of the visit will remain imprinted in people’s minds as an sign of understanding and dialogue for Jews and Catholics and an example for all humanity. In the same way, Benedict XVI’s theological reflection on the special bond between Judaism and Christianity, repairs a historic rift, laying the foundations for closer relations and mutual recognition, in order to allow Jews and Christians to dig deeper into their origins and genuinely reinforce their identity, each doing their bit, together, to improve relations.”A new Vatican document published last month states that “the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews”, because its relationshipwith them is different than with any other faith. What is your take on this?“Ever since the approval of the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, dignitaries of the Church demonstrated on a number of occasions that the Church would not be carrying out any evangelical action or mission with the Jewish people as it had done on a dramatic scale in the past. But the document “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable” made this clear officially. It was thus that a very painful chapter in Jewish-Christian relations was closed. Just a stone’s throw away from the square where Rome’s Jewish ghetto was – the square reminds its inhabitants that this is where the journey to the Nazi concentration camps began – there is a church with a frontispiece that quotes verse 65, 2 of the Book of Isaiah: "I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people”. During the Middle Ages they would compulsively gather Jews in this church – I have been told this by experts on Jewish history in Rome – all of them ghetto inhabitants, to make them listen to the missionary preaching of Christian clerics. The Church’s latest document puts a definitive end to these stories that are part of a sad past.”
Jan 16 16 6:18 AM
Rome’s chief rabbi calls papal synagogue visit ‘providential’ROME — When Pope Francis visits the historic Great Synagogue of Rome on Sunday, he’ll be welcomed by the chief rabbi amid joy at the visit, but also alarm that mounting security fears related to terrorism may complicate things.On the other hand, the rabbi also said it may be “providential” the pontiff is arriving under such a cloud, because it sends a timely signal that hostility and violence is not the only religious storyline.Chief Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, leader of Rome’s Jewish community, said Thursday it seems “obvious” that Sunday’s visit is high-risk in light of Europe’s seemingly constant terror threats.Security measures will be tight as Francis makes the two-mile trip from the Vatican to the synagogue Sunday afternoon. Italy, like most of Europe, has been on high alert since the terrorist attacks in Paris last November perpetrated by ISIS.The threat of extremism in Italy is so real, Di Segni said, that it complicates the possibility of a joint declaration promoting peace among local Islamic, Jewish, and Catholic leaders.“[Islamic leaders in Italy] are under threat by extremist groups, so they move with a lot of difficulties,” Di Segni told journalists at the synagogue Thursday.This will be Francis’ first visit to a Jewish place of worship since the beginning of his pontificate, more than three years ago. He’ll be the third pope in the modern era to visit the Rome synagogue, after St. John Paul II in 1986 and Benedict XVI in 2010.“A tradition is being created,” Di Segni said of Sunday’s event.“The first visit was revolutionary, but it could have been nothing more than a dot in history,” he said. “Benedict wanted to show that it was a tradition that had to continue.”It took Francis nearly three years to visit, Di Segni said, because neither the Jewish community nor the pope were in a hurry.“This isn’t a routine event,” he said.The visit falls on Italy’s annual day for Christian-Jewish dialogue. It has been observed for the past 20 years to reflect on relations between Catholics and Jews.For the rabbi, Francis’ visit will be “providential” because it will send a message of coexistence at a moment of increasing religious violence, something which is being felt, he said, in an “astonishing” way in Europe.“There’s urgency in this moment to signal that religious diversity can’t be a justification nor an excuse for intolerance,” Di Segni said.Although reticent to speak about political matters that put a damper on the dialogue between the Jewish community and the Vatican, the rabbi said the Vatican’s recent decision to sign an accord with what it called the “State of Palestine” will hang over Sunday’s meeting.“There are political decisions the Vatican makes, particularly regarding the Middle East, that affect Jews in Israel and the world, over which we can clearly disagree,” Di Segni said. “[The Vatican-Palestine accord] is an open problem, but Rome’s synagogue is not the place for politics. It’ll be in the background, but the main objective of the meeting is the encounter among faithful of different religions.”For the record, the Vatican long has supported Palestinian statehood. The accord Di Segni referenced was signed in June, and largely concerns the tax and legal status of Catholic facilities and personnel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.A similar accord has been on the works between Israel and the Vatican since 1993, when their diplomatic relations were established.On the papal visit to the synagogue, Di Segni said he expects for Francis to give “signals of friendship and cordiality,” and doesn’t rule out an unexpected gesture from the pontiff.“He’s a pope of surprises,” he said.“Francis is a pope that knows how to speak to the heart of people,” the rabbi said. “Which hearts he knows how to reach is something you (journalists) know best. I can evaluate the impact he’s had in our community, and it’s a positive one.”Di Segni also said he hopes debates over Pope Pius XII, a divisive figure because of his alleged silence during the Holocaust, are left out of the meeting.Francis is the first non-European pontiff to visit Rome’s synagogue, and for Di Segni, this means the Argentine pope has had a “different, yet not negative experience.”“[Francis’] experience is one of friendship,” he said, freed of the terrible weight of history that marks Jewish-Catholic relations in Europe.However, as Di Segni pointed out, Argentina was the setting for two of the worst terrorist attacks of the early 1990s, both directed at the local Jewish community.In 1992, an attack on Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 civilians and injured 242. Two years later, the building of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association was bombed, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds.Above all, for Di Segni the papal visit will be a sign that different religions can co-exist constructively.“It’s not about taking up weapons and going into a theater to kill people in God’s name,” he said.From a more Jewish-Catholic perspective, the rabbi said he hopes the pope’s visit to the synagogue is seen as a confirmation of the Vatican’s recently released document on dialogue between the two faiths.The document, titled “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” and released last December, says that there shouldn’t be an organized effort from Catholics to convert Jews.It also says that even though Christianity teaches there is only one path to salvation in Jesus, this “does not in any way follow that Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel.”Di Segni said he believes this declaration to be very important, and that it should be the cornerstone for Jewish-Catholic relations in the future. However, he said, it’s also a theological document that needs to be brought down to a grassroots level.“How do you explain to those who’re not theology experts that they have to believe in Christ to be saved, yet you don’t?” he said.Here, he said, the papal visit to the synagogue is key: “It translates complicated theology into substantial signs.”
Jan 16 16 10:15 AM
On Sunday Pope Francis will become the third pontiff to cross the threshold of the Major Temple in Rome, the most important and significant synagogue in the city.Thirty years have passed since the historic visit of John Paul II in 1986, and in these decades the relationship between Jews and Catholics has become closer, more intense, and, because of this, not absent of difficulty.St. John Paul II brought the spirit of Nostra Aetate into the synagogue, making the historic document that reshaped Catholicism’s relationship with Judaism concrete when in 1986 he became the first Pope since the first century to ever set foot in a synagogue.But the story as to how John Paul II’s decision to visit Rome’s Major Synagogue came about has a little-known twist, beginning with the planning of an international papal trip.In an interview with CNA, Gianfranco Svidercoschi, a longtime Vatican correspondent, the former vice-director of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano and a biographer of St. John Paul II, recounted the story.He said that Fr. Roberto Tucci, former president of Vatican Radio and the previous organizer of papal trips, had been sitting with John Paul II discussing his upcoming 1987 visit to the United States.“Among the various invitations, one was from an American rabbi who asked the Pope to visit his synagogue,” Svidercoschi said, adding that John Paul II was “very much in favor of it, of course, seeing as how in 1985 he wasn't afraid, at the White House, to meet with young Muslims.”But it was at this point that Fr. Tucci “had an intuition: 'if a Pope is going to a synagogue, the first needs to be the Synagogue of Rome.'”So, it was following this train of thought that St. John Paul II decided to visit the Synagogue of Rome, becoming the first Pope in modern history to do so. From that historic gesture in 1986, it has almost become a habit.Rabbi Elio Toaff, Chief Rabbi of Rome at the time, was the first to go and meet John Paul II in a visit to the parish of San Carlo ai Catinari in 1981. But then the next year, on April 13, 1986, the story took a great leap forward.After John Paul II’s revolutionary embrace with Toaff, a great promoter of dialogue, the speech of the Polish Pope who had grown up with Jewish friends in Krakow was a lesson on the Second Vatican Council.The Pope gave his thanks and recalled the many efforts of Pope St. John XXIII, who laid the groundwork for Nostra Aetate, and expressed his “abhorrence” for the Nazi genocide.He also remembered how the Church came to the aid of Jews during the dark years of persecution in the Second World War by opening the doors of their convents and seminaries to those who went into hiding.The Pope noted that the relationship Christians have with the Jews is one that they don’t have with any other religion, and pointed to common areas of collaboration in a society that has forgotten the sacred. He then asked for help from the Jewish community, the oldest in Rome, in making Rome a better city.Many years then passed before another, historic visit took place. The German Pope Benedict XVI arrived to the Seat of Peter, and first wanted to visit the synagogue in Cologne, a tragic reminder of the “Kristallnackt,” or “the Night of Broken Glass.”The Kristallnackt refers to a massive, coordinated attack against the Jews that took place throughout the German Reich the night of Nov. 9, 1938.While in Cologne for World Youth Day in 2005, Benedict XVI visited the city’s synagogue, and recalled the 60 years since the liberation from the Nazis.In his speech, Benedict resumed the path of John Paul II, and took another step forward, condemning the antisemitism which in Europe raises its head like a dragon all too often. He also drew attention to the commitment of the German bishops, and said that we must love one another and put the Ten Commandments again at the center of Jewish-Christian dialogue.From there, Benedict XVI’s reflections began again when on Jan. 17, 2010, just six years ago, he crossed the threshold of Rome’s Major Temple as a symbol of the “emancipation” of the Jews in Rome.Rabbi Toaff had by then aged and become ill, but still wanted to greet the Pope. So Benedict went to his house and this time, the first embrace took place in his doorway.In the synagogue to welcome Pope Benedict after was Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni. It will also be he who receives Pope Francis this Sunday, Jan. 17.“How good it is for brothers to be together,” the German Pope had said. And in one act the misunderstandings that often punctuate dialogue between Catholics and Jews seemed to dissolve.Then he gave his reflection, almost in a rabbinic style, on the commandments and on mercy.One mustn’t forget the destruction of the extermination, he said; a German, who had visited Auschwitz asking for forgiveness. “How is it possible,” he said in the synagogue, “to forget their faces, their names, their tears – the desperation of men, women and children?”Benedict retraced the common values of the two religions, from safeguarding life to caring for creation.Then, on the Ten Commandments, he said that “all of the commandments are summed up in the love of God and in mercy toward others.”The key to everything, the point of union, is the mercy which “urges Jews and Christians to exercise, in our time, a special generosity towards the poor, towards women and children, strangers, the sick, the weak and the needy,” he said.“In the Jewish tradition there is a wonderful saying of the Fathers of Israel: ‘Simon the Just often said: The world is founded on three things: the Torah, worship, and acts of mercy,’ he said.In exercising justice and mercy, “Jews and Christians are called to announce and to bear witness to the coming Kingdom of the Most High, for which we pray and work in hope each day,” Benedict XVI continued.Pope Francis, for whom mercy has been the center of his pontificate, will arrive to the synagogue in the Holy Year of Mercy with a personal history of relationships with Jewish friends from Buenos Aires.Perhaps his reflection will also be on that very subject of mercy, from the faith of brothers.
Jan 16 16 10:16 PM
History and geography have combined to make Catholic-Jewish relations in Rome unique, both negatively and positively — a fact highlighted by modern papal visits to the city’s main synagogue just two miles from the Vatican.Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the synagogue Jan. 17, just as Pope Benedict XVI did in 2010 and St. John Paul II did in 1986.The city’s Jewish community existed before Jesus was born “and the Christians who arrived here were (originally) Jews themselves so this place has an enormous symbolic meaning,” said Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome. But, “the persecution we suffered, persecution by the church” for centuries, including the 300 years when popes forced the city’s Jews to live in a ghetto, also makes Rome unique.The main synagogue “was built on the ruins of the ghetto,” the rabbi told Catholic News Service Jan. 14 as he and his staff prepared to welcome the pope.Especially since the Second Vatican Council, the general trend in relations between the popes and Rome’s Jewish community, like between Catholics and Jews elsewhere, is “good relations, friendship” and the possibility of confronting with frankness any problems that arise, Rabbi Di Segni said.The rabbi has met with Pope Francis several times and has had telephone conversations with him as well; “there is always an open line in case of necessity.”“This visit is important because it gives two important signals: The first signal is continuity,” demonstrating that “the route opened by John Paul II and followed by Benedict XVI is now going forward,” he said. The second signal is a recognition of the importance of mutual respect and dialogue at a time of increasing “violence inspired and sustained by distorted visions of religion.”“We are a kind of symbolic center, due to our history and position,” he said, for demonstrating to the world that dialogue and peace are possible even between communities with a painful history and that centuries of denying or denigrating the other’s beliefs can come to an end.The rabbi said he hopes Pope Francis will make some public reference to “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable,” a statement issued in December by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews. The statement provides a brief summary of 50 years of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, looks at some theological questions that have arisen in the dialogue and states that the Catholic Church “neither conducts nor supports” any institutional missionary initiative directed toward Jews.“The point about the conversion of the Jews is very important to contributing to improving relations,” the rabbi said, and for creating “a positive atmosphere, without any doubts” about Catholics’ motivations for engaging in dialogue with Jews.The document, which is theological in nature, needs to reach the public, the rabbi said, and the pope speaking about it during his visit to the synagogue would help.While Rabbi Di Segni knows the pope “is the pope of surprises,” he was expecting Pope Francis to speak about mercy at the synagogue since it is the Year of Mercy and the virtue is a theme in almost every papal speech.The Rome rabbi said he appreciates that in talking about God’s mercy Pope Francis has rejected a facile and false dichotomy that contrasts the God of the Hebrew Scriptures with the God of the New Testament as if the Jews believed only in “the God of justice” and Christianity invented “the God of mercy.”Pope Francis “is much more honest and linked to the basic biblical tradition which speaks about ‘a God of justice and mercy’ together,” the rabbi said.“We appreciate this and we appreciate that mercy must be a central point in our relations,” he said. “God gives us the example, the model” for how people must behave toward one another.
Jan 17 16 7:20 AM
On any list of the biggest religion stories of the 20th century, the positive revolution in Catholic-Jewish relations that unfolded post-World War II, accelerating after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, would have to finish near the top.Sunday brings a reminder, as Pope Francis visits the Great Synagogue of Rome, becoming the third pontiff to do so after St. John Paul II in 1986 and Benedict XVI in 2010. Where the synagogue stands today was once inside a papally-imposed ghetto; today, popes arrive as invited friends.These visits are always special, given that arguably no Jewish community has felt the sting of Catholic opprobrium more than the one in Rome. It’s enough to recall that in the Middle Ages, the rabbi of Rome was required to present a tribute to the chief of the city councilors each year, and in return got a ceremonial kick to the rump.Though most experts say this is now a friendship nothing can derail, there are still flashpoints. As Francis goes to the synagogue, here’s a run-down of six issues in Catholic/Jewish relations.Mission and conversionGiven how Jewish “refusal” to accept Christ long has been a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda, one priority for Jews in dialogue with Catholicism has been an acknowledgement that their covenant with God is still valid, so they shouldn’t be asked to convert.The first part of that formula basically has been accomplished, as St. John Paul II declared that the Jewish covenant with God has “never been revoked.”Operationally, Catholics don’t really have much problem with the second point, either. As a recent Vatican document put it, “the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”Yet Christianity is a missionary religion, convinced that Christ came for all. How to square that belief with restraint toward Jews remains a bit of a theological conundrum.Israel and PalestineTheologically, some Jews would like Catholicism to formally endorse Judaism’s claim to the land of Israel. Politically, they’d often settle for more sympathy in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.Francis’ visit to the region in May 2014 was seen by some as a propaganda coup for the Palestinians, including an unscheduled stop at the Israeli security barrier under a bit of graffiti reading “Free Palestine!” Last June, the Vatican signed a treaty with what it formally recognized as the “State of Palestine.”The sociological reality is that the vast majority of Christians in Israel and Palestine are Palestinians, and most of the bishops are Arabs, meaning the strongest influence on any pope in thinking about the conflict will never be pro-Israeli.In the Francis era, too, not allowing Catholic/Jewish ties to be hijacked by politics remains a challenge.Economic agreementIsrael and the Vatican have had diplomatic relations since 1993, and ever since, they’ve been working on a deal on the tax and legal status of Church properties. Every few months someone predicts a breakthrough, but so far no dice.On the Vatican side, some suspect Israel is dragging things out in order to create “facts on the ground”; on the Israeli side, some believe the Vatican is trying to use its muscle to extort privileges not afforded to other religious minorities.Most Catholics and Jews involved in dialogue would say the stalemate is just an irritant within a healthy relationship — but an irritant it would be good to remove quickly.Pius XIIDebates over whether the wartime Pope Pius XII was sufficiently outspoken on the Holocaust — including a 1943 Nazi round-up of Jews from the Roman community Francis is visiting on Sunday — still swirl, especially in terms of whether Pius will be proclaimed a saint.One shoe waiting to drop is the full opening of the Vatican’s archives from the war years, allowing researchers to better assess Pius’ record. In November 2014, Francis said he would like to see the archives opened “the moment we sort out legal and bureaucratic matters.”Francis has also insisted that Pius can’t be judged according to today’s standards, and that “it really gets my goat when I see that everyone is against the Church, against Pius XII — all those detractors.”Jubilee rhetoricFrancis has designated 2016 as a jubilee Year of Mercy, and in the abstract it’s hard to see who could oppose mercy. Yet Riccardo di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, has expressed concern that jubilee rhetoric could revive anti-Semitic stereotypes, principally that the Old Testament God is harsh and vindictive while Christianity is loving and merciful.“It’s an antique theological aberration, which has remained a sort of childhood disease of Christianity,” he said.Di Segni stressed he doesn’t believe that’s how Francis intends it, but worries it could come off that way to an “unprepared public.”Taking it to the peopleWhile Jewish leaders say the revolution in official Catholic attitudes has been remarkable, many worry it hasn’t fully reached the parish level — especially outside the West, where one can still find openly anti-Semitic prejudices in some Catholic circles.In Israel, Catholics sometimes complain that the new spirit doesn’t have an echo in the popular media or school curricula, where depictions of Christianity can pivot on the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust, without noting recent progress.Both sides, then, need to ensure their friendship reaches the people.
Jan 18 16 7:09 AM
Jan 18 16 7:46 AM
Jews and Christians, a special relationship is strengthenedToday, Pope Francis visits Rome’s Synagogue. After John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s, this will be the third papal visit to the Roman Jewish community. This gesture, perhaps like no other, shows the historic change that has taken place in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. While the Fourth Lateran Council 800 years ago confined Jews to a ghetto, today, the Popes visit the former Jewish ghetto to exchange the Biblical greeting of peace, “Shalom”, with the Jewish community.Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council issued the “Nostra Aetate” declaration, launching fraternal relations between Christians and Jews. The Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews published followed this up with an important document on 10 December 2015. It recalls the complex and often painful history of these relations, and importantly, importantly mentioning the Holocaust: the State-organised assassination of two thirds of Europe’s Jews during the National Socialist regime, an event which has left a deep wound among the Jewish people. The cause of this change in relations is mentioned in the title of this new document too. In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul writes that God’s call to the Jewish people is definitive. The Jews were not therefore disowned as had often been claimed in the past. God’s alliance with them is still valid. The relationship between Jews and Christians in one of a kind. It is distinct from Christianity’s relations with any other religion. Jews and Christians share a common spiritual legacy in the writings of the Old Testament. Both are brothers and sisters who, in the Old Testament, have common fathers and mothers in the faith. Jesus himself, his mother Mary and all the apostles were Jews. The last Council rejected the discrimination of Jews in a decisive manner, denouncing past persecutions and severely condemning every form of anti-Semitism. Since then, wherever Jews and Christians live together, relations are cordial, there is dialogue and cooperation in practical humanitarian questions and common concern for peace in a Holy Land afflicted by bloody conflict. Provocations by die hard fanatics, who are a constant cause of unease, are condemned by Jews and Christians alike, who have a direct relationship in a dialogue that has been going on for decades. It is interesting that the recent document goes a step beyond what was achieved during the Second Vatican Council, addressing questions which are sensitive for Jews and linked to the mission towards the Jews. The question generated serious dismay in 2007, when Benedict XVI reintroduced the Old Rite in the Good Friday liturgy, in exceptional cases. The Rite involves a prayer “for the conversion of the Jews”, which no longer appears in this form in the post-conciliar liturgy, customary almost everywhere. This is a sensitive issue for Christians too as it is linked to the question of universal salvation in Jesus Christ, which is fundamental for the faith. The document presents the solution found back then, in agreement with the Pope: there is no specific institutional Christian missionary action towards the Jews; however, Christians must bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ, to the Jews; and they must do so with humility and sensitivity, showing respect for the Jewish faith.That a declaration by 25 orthodox Jewish rabbis was issued a week before this document was published is a special cause of joy. There was clearly a certain degree of agreement over both declarations and these are renewed testimonies of the relationship of trust that has developed. Together, these documents can be taken to say: at a time when violent conflicts that threaten peace in the world, are growing under the pretext of religion, Jews and Christians bear testimony to the fact that, despite their difficult history, friendly cooperation and a common commitment in favour of justice and peace in the world, are possible. Pope Francis’ visit to the Synagogue of Rome will take this common testimony in favour of Shalom - of world peace - further, boosting it.
Mar 5 16 6:38 AM
Pius XII’s covert war against the Nazis and HitlerROME — Pope Pius XII, who some critics say remained silent during the Holocaust, played a pivotal role in coordinating covert spy operations and efforts to take down Adolf Hitler, a US author says.“Pius XII conspired with the German resistance to try and get rid of Hitler on not just one but three occasions — from 1939 to 1945 — and that’s the story that I tell,” Mark Riebling told Catholic News Service.In his book, “Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler,” Riebling’s research unveils a series of plots and acts of espionage involving Pope Pius that sought to bring down the tyrannical Nazi regime, which was responsible for the death of an estimated 6 million Jews.The book says Pope Pius stayed silent lest public criticism of Hitler undermine his secret war against the dictator. He skimmed from Church charities to pay covert couriers and surreptitiously tape-recorded his meetings with top Nazis. Riebling writes that gun-toting Jesuits (Good heavens! Talk about being literally "soldiers of God"!) stole blueprints to Hitler’s homes, a Catholic book publisher flew a sports plane over the Alps with secrets filched from the head of Hitler’s bodyguard, and the keeper of the Vatican crypt ran a spy ring that betrayed German war plans and wounded Hitler in a briefcase bombing.One of the stars of Riebling’s book is Joseph Muller, a German Catholic who worked as an intelligence agent for both the CIA and the Vatican, the author said.“Joseph Muller was caught between his country and his Church. And in the end, his country became so evil that he worked with his Church to try and have a regime change,” Riebling told CNS.At the start of the war, Muller visited the Vatican on several occasions to pass correspondence to Pope Pius who, while publicly appearing neutral, served as an intermediary and passed along information to British and Allied intelligence, Riebling said.Although Muller and other members of the German resistance were ultimately discovered and sent to concentration camps, he and several others survived, keeping the knowledge of Pope Pius’s actions against the Nazis alive.Despite the pope’s disdain for the Nazi’s actions, authors critical of what they consider to be his public silence continued pushing the notion that he was “Hitler’s pope,” Riebling said. The documents he researched from several unpublished sources, including the Vatican Secret Archives and Germany’s Institut für Zeitgeschichte, countered those notions and led him to write his book.“Rather than considering what he did not say — about which billions of words have been published in English alone — I thought, ‘Why not just look at what he actually did, even if it’s in secret.’ And that took me many, many years to piece together,” Riebling told CNS.Despite the evidence, he said, the pope continues to be used as a “scapegoat” for the inaction of some Christians against the persecution of the Jewish people.However, the US historian said that while he must remain objective, the research into the actions of Pope Pius paint a different picture.“From all of the information I have seen, he was a very saintly man and there is nothing that I have seen or from anyone I know who has seen the archives — particularly the former (postulator) of his beatification proceedings, Father Peter Gumpel — nothing that any of us has seen indicates he did anything contrary to faith or morals as they were defined at the time or against church law,” he said.Riebling, who gave Pope Francis a copy of his book in Spanish after a general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 2, said he hopes that the Vatican’s Secret Archives will be opened soon to look further into historical records and place the “debate about Pius XII, which has big implications for interfaith relations, on a different footing.” Although Pope Benedict XVI authorized allowing scholars access to Vatican Secret Archives’ documents dating up to 1939, papers from the World War II years are still being catalogued.The story of Pope Pius and those who “who went to the gallows for their complicity and plots to remove Hitler,” Riebling said, are a reminder of the heroism that human beings are capable of, particularly when people are being persecuted and killed for their faith.“People don’t have any myths or stories to live by, nothing to encourage them on how to behave in times of moral crisis in these crucial, demanding moral decisions,” the author said. Terrorist organizations like the Islamic State, he added, are in touch with their history and myths and “don’t have any problem going in and risking their lives for their cause.”“I think this book, ‘Church of Spies,’ really points a way to a recovery of Christendom which I think can help the West unite itself against something which would really do us all in,” Riebling said.
Jun 16 16 5:47 AM
Pius XII not only opposed Hitler but plotted against him, book saysMultiple U.S. intelligence documents from the World War II era link Pope Pius XII and his closest advisers to German military plots against Hitler, and the Vatican indirectly has acknowledged they have a basis in fact. Until now, however, the full story of Pius' involvement in efforts to bring down the Nazi dictator has never been told. [Editor’s Note: This is part one of a Crux interview with Mark Riebling on his book Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler. Part two of Gerald Korson’s conversation with Riebling will appear tomorrow.]Praised by contemporaries for his heroic efforts on behalf of the Jews and in standing up to totalitarianism during World War II, yet reviled by certain modern-day critics for his alleged inaction and “silence” in the face of Hitler’s rise to power and assault on Europe: Such is the mixed legacy of Pope Pius XII, who sat on the Chair of Peter from 1939 to 1958.Where does the truth lie?The praise of Pope Pius XII from Jewish and world leaders during and in the years following the war is well-documented. Accusations began to surface with the revisionist history presented in The Deputy, a 1960 play that cast the pontiff in a decidedly negative light, and continue to be rehashed in the media and in books such as John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope, published in 1999.Authors such as Ronald Rychlak (Hitler, the War, and the Pope, published in 2000) have risen to the pope’s defense, but with far less attention in the secular media than is given to his detractors.Now comes Mark Riebling, an American historian and policy analyst who has researched and written on matters of national security and terrorism.In his new book, Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler (Basic Books, 2015), he turns his meticulous attention to the whole matter of Pope Pius XII and what he really did - or did not do - during Hitler’s ascendancy and in the face of the evils perpetrated by the Nazis and Fascists in the Second World War.Digging deeply into the Vatican’s archives and other documented sources, Riebling reveals how Pius XII, far from practicing silent indifference to what was happening, was busily waging his own war against Hitler through clandestine efforts to undermine his objectives and even to oust him from power.Crux recently interviewed Riebling about his book, his research, and his conclusions regarding the controversy over Pope Pius XII.Crux: Defenses of Pope Pius XII have been published in the past, but Church of Spies surfaces evidence not previously reported. What inspired you to undertake the investigation?Riebling: I was researching my book Wedge in the National Archives in Washington, the subtitle of which is The Secret War Between the CIA and FBI, when I came across ten U.S. intelligence documents linking Pope Pius XII and his close advisers to three German military plots against Hitler.That the Vatican had been involved in these plots had been known in a vague, general way since 1946, when the communist press referenced the pope’s role in the plots, and the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, admitted that the claims had some basis in fact.Since then, even the pope’s fiercest critics - John Cornwell (author of Hitler’s Pope), James Carroll, Daniel Goldhagen, even Rolf Hochhuth (author of “The Deputy”) - they’ve all granted, in passing, that Pius plotted against Hitler. But no one seemed curious about exploring the whole story, or telling it in detail.As a result, one of the most astonishing events in the history of the papacy had failed to pierce public consciousness, so I set out to give the truth its due.You were raised a Catholic, but left the faith and now self-identify as an atheist. Does your present belief system in any way color your perspective on this subject matter?I’d call myself a “Catholic atheist,” if that makes any sense to you. I lack the belief piece, but one of my favorite quotes is by Oriana Fallaci - “The atheist should behave as if God exists.” So, I go to Mass, and recently, in the Vatican, after meeting Pope Francis, I even went to Confession in the Jesuit Curia - my soul was rocked to its core.When the Holy Father came here to the U.S. last year and said, “Those of you who do not believe, and cannot pray - send me good wishes” - I was never more proud of being a human.But in the end, I don’t think this worldview colors my approach to the subject so much as my contrarian temperament does. If this story didn’t run counter to what’s widely believed, I doubt I would have been inspired to spend years researching it.Long before his election to the papacy, Eugenio Pacelli served as papal nuncio to Germany and Vatican Secretary of State. How would you characterize his posture and actions as Hitler slowly rose to power in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s?As I show in Church of Spies, Pacelli worked secretly to thwart Hitler’s first attempt to seize power, in 1923. The Nazis knew about this and never forgot it.When Hitler did take power, ten years later, Pope Pius XI was briefly enchanted, I think, by Hitler’s anticommunism. He wanted to give the benefit of the doubt, hoping that Hitler would turn out to be merely a German Mussolini, and realizing, above all, that Hitler had the masses with him. So when Hitler offered the Vatican the chance to sign a concordat with the Reich, guaranteeing Catholic rights, the pope directed Pacelli to negotiate the terms.It fell to Pacelli also to monitor German compliance with the treaty; and to that end, Pacelli set up an extremely sophisticated episcopal intelligence network, centered in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising. After Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, this intelligence network played a vital role in the plots to overthrow Hitler.Some critics see the concordat as an effort to protect the Church’s own interests rather than to look out for the good of all, particularly the Jews. Is this accurate?It’s not so much accurate or inaccurate, as incomplete.Recently I spent a week in the archives of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and one of the most striking documents I found was a report from the mid-1930s from Switzerland, from the Zionist Congress, where the Jews were citing the sermons of Munich Cardinal Michael Faulhaber - sermons defending the Old Testament - as proof that the Vatican rejected the Nazi agenda.So this shows, in my view, that the concordat was not seen at the time by Jewish leaders as something that threw non-Aryans under the bus. Later in the war, you find Protestant resistance-heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer lamenting that they didn’t have a concordat; they felt that having some guarantee of their rights would have made them less subject to Nazi pressure.But it is true is that the Vatican tried to make the best deals it could with the German Government, to protect its interests. That’s something that can be said of every institution in the world that had to deal with Hitler, including the British, French, American and even Soviet governments.In general, those institutions did not see themselves representing the Jews specifically, or mankind more generally. In my view, in light of the Shoah, that was a tragically limited perspective. But the failure here was not a uniquely Catholic or papal one.Given the political crisis in Europe and the imminence of war, what role did Eugenio Pacelli’s opposition to Hitler play in his election to the papacy in early 1939?I don’t think his opposition to Hitler played a great role in Pacelli’s election, as much as his four decades in the Vatican diplomatic service.For sure, Germany was the only nation in which Pacelli’s election was publicly criticized in the press. But he was on all sides considered the total personification of responsibility - discretion and prudence, especially in speech. His predecessor, Pius XI, had been somewhat impulsive, and Pacelli was seen as one who could calm the waters.With Europe on the brink of war, the cardinals needed someone who could be trusted at the rudder of the ship - a steady hand - and in that respect, Pacelli had no peer.Pope Pius XII was on record opposing Hitler and defending the Jews, but you report that he was strongly urged to maintain a relative “silence” after the war began. Who were some of these parties, and what was their reasoning?There were two parties who advised him to keep silent - the German bishops, and the German military resistance.The German bishops, as Vatican transcripts show, urged Pius XII to dial back public criticism of the Nazis, because a 1937 encyclical attacking Nazi neopaganism had worsened the plight of the German Church. So Pius XII agreed to modulate Rome’s public criticism of Germany.Later, as papers in the Franklin Roosevelt Library show, the German military resistance asked Pius XII to mute public criticism, because they feared a crackdown on the ecclesiastical intelligence network that had become part of the anti-Hitler plots.For instance, criticism of the Nazis by the exiled German Jesuit Father Friedrich Muckermann led directly, in 1941, to the arrests of two Vatican intelligence agents involved in resistance work - a Jewish journalist, Theresa Schneidhuber, and Monsignor Johannes Neuhausler, the deputy of Munich Cardinal Michael Faulhaber. Neuhausler spent the war in Dachau; Frau Schneidhuber died in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt.Without that counsel, do you believe Pius XII might have spoken out more explicitly in opposition to Hitler and Fascism?In the case of a counterfactual, one can never know what “would” have happened. But, I think that the urging of these sources tipped Pacelli toward a course with which he was temperamentally comfortable.Pacelli had spent most of his adult life practicing the art of backstairs diplomacy, and the Church itself had honed this art over nearly two millennia of conflict between Church and State, in which the papacy usually held the weaker hand.The time had long passed when a pontiff could effectively undermine a secular leader by calling down on him the threat of damnation. When Pius IX had tried this, in the 19th century, Europeans had laughed him out of court; and the prestige of the papacy had suffered greatly as a result.I think that Pius XII was afraid that if he called for a kind of moral crusade against Hitler, Protestant Germans - and even many Catholic Germans -would have rallied round Hitler all the more.I’m reminded here, sadly, of the irate reaction among many professed American Christians to Pope Francis’ recent words at the Mexican border. The presidential candidate in question, who complained that he was implicitly criticized, didn’t find his standing eroded at all.
Jul 20 16 5:35 AM
Preserve Elie Wiesel's legacy: remember Holocaust survivors' storiesThe recent death of Elie Wiesel -- Holocaust survivor, author, Nobel Peace Prize recipient -- received a lot of media attention, and properly so.He was a robust moral voice in a confused, tentative age desperate for such north stars.But what struck me after reading summary accounts of his life is that his own story of surviving Nazi Germany's attempt to murder all the Jews of Europe was just one among many, and certainly wasn't even the most interesting.What made Wiesel's story so widely known and so compelling was his remarkable ability to describe it in memorable ways in his book Night and other venues and in the countless speeches he gave.And yet, as I say, there are many other survival stories equally or more astonishing than Wiesel's. I learned that in detail a decade ago when I began what would turn out to be about four and a half years of work on a book about such survival that I wrote with Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn.In our book, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, we tell the stories of more than 20 people who somehow managed to avoid Germany's death sentence on them by getting help from non-Jews, which in Poland means mostly Catholics.What we discovered, however, is that only rarely did those who helped to save Jews do so for religious reasons. Rather, they helped because often they already knew the Jews who asked for help. They were neighbors, say, or customers.Beyond that, these non-Jewish Poles had to overcome the long, deep history of anti-Judaism that the church had taught almost from the time that Christianity finally separated itself decisively from Judaism.But, in the end, they did what was right. They put their own lives at risk and made the list of six million dead Jews just a bit shorter than it otherwise would have been.And what stories the survivors had to tell us.Maria Devinki, for instance, lived for more than two years under the floor of barns in Poland and eventually wound up a real estate investor and philanthropist in Kansas City.Felix Zandman hid with four or five other people some 17 months in a small pit under the bedroom of a house in Poland. After the war he earned his Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in Paris and founded Vishay Technology on the basis of his many patented scientific inventions.Fr. Romuald Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel was, as a baby, given to a Catholic family, and he didn't discover that he had been born a Jew until 12 years after he had been ordained a Catholic priest -- against his parents' wishes. He's still one today.Feliks Karpman found a family to hide and save him and, after the war, married one of that family's daughters, Marianna.Zygie Allweiss was in a truck with many other Jews headed to a rural site where the Germans planned to shoot them all after they had dug their own mass grave. But Zygie slit the canvas back of the truck's covering and, at just the right moment, slipped out and rolled into a ditch. He and his brother Sol wound up being hidden by a farm family they had known before the war -- a family Zygie and his by-then grown daughters eventually reconnected with.It's exactly these survivor stories, coupled with the terrible reality of the six million who died, that Elie Wiesel spent his career begging people not to forget."I remember, May 1944," Wiesel wrote. "I was 15-and-a-half, and I was thrown into a haunted universe where the story of the human adventure seemed to swing irrevocably between horror and malediction."And out of that brutal universe came a man who would not let the rest of us forget. One way to honor his memory is to remember our own capacity for evil.
Jul 26 16 3:50 AM
Francis’ silence at Auschwitz hides a history of outspokennessPope Francis will pray silently when he visits Auschwitz Friday. But he has had much to say on the Holocaust in the past, according to an expert at Argentina's Pontifical Catholic University who also heads the Community of Sant'Egidio in Buenos Aires. BUENOS AIRES - When Pope Francis goes on a silent pilgrimage to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp this Friday, it will be his first time in the former Nazi concentration camp that stands as the universal symbol of totalitarian horror.That is one reason he won’t be giving a speech. He wants to go alone and say nothing. “I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds - only the few people necessary,” he told journalists on the flight back from Armenia.“Alone, enter, pray,” he said. “And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.”The only proper human response - as so many visitors find - to the mystery of such evil is recollection and silent prayer. Francis’ decision to say nothing has been deeply appreciated by the Chief Rabbi of Poland.But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t spoken and reflected often on the Holocaust, or had plenty to say about it. He is no stranger to the Shoah, both as cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires and as pope.Just a few months after his election in March 21013, he met with representatives of the Jewish community in Rome on the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews from Rome. “A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite!” he said on that occasion, praying that Antisemitism be “uprooted from the heart of every man and every woman.”On his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2014 he visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial that renders homage to the six million Jews slaughtered in the Nazi extermination camps. After hearing their stories he tenderly kissed the hands of a half-dozen Holocaust survivors and uttered a prophetic address in the manner of Jeremiah.“In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: ‘Adam, where are you?’ This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child,” he said on that occasion.“The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost,” he went on, “yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, that cry - “Where are you?” - echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…”After praying in silence he wrote in the Yad Vashem guestbook: “With shame for what man, who was created in the image of God, was able to do; with shame for the fact that man made himself the owner of evil; with shame that man made himself into God and sacrificed his brothers. Never again! Never again!”The following year, he gave a speech to the conference of European rabbis on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. “The memory of what happened in the heart of Europe,” he told them, “should serve as warning to present and future generations alike.”Francis’ profound identification with the suffering of the Shoah stems from his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, but like St. John Paul II, it begins in childhood.Growing up in the barrio of Flores, he knew a number of rusos, as Argentine Jews - who are mostly Eastern European Ashkenazi - are affectionately known in Buenos Aires.Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s Piedmontese father, Mario, used to tell him that Jesus was Jewish, that Jews had been persecuted over the years, and that the Church had sometimes abetted their mistreatment.The Argentine Jewish population of 200,000 has been diminished by emigration to Israel, but remains one of the most significant diaspora in Latin America. There are over a dozen synagogues in Buenos Aires and a number of significant institutions.As Austen Ivereigh records in his biography of Francis, The Great Reformer, Cardinal Bergoglio “took Jewish-Catholic relations in Buenos Aires to a whole new level.”Shortly after he became archbishop, he ordered the renovation of a glass mural installed by his predecessor, Cardinal Quarracino, in the Buenos Aires cathedral. The display contains relics of the Shoah including fragments of prayer books found in the concentration camps that had been retrieved by Holocaust survivors in Argentina.In a gesture that was deeply appreciated by the Jewish community, Bergoglio had the mural expanded to include a commemoration of the 1992 and 1994 bomb attacks in Buenos Aires on the Israeli embassy and the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), the first of which killed 29, the second 85.Cardinal Bergoglio always made sure his auxiliary bishops attended the yearly commemoration of the latter. In July 2010 he went himself, telling journalists that the AMIA attack - alleged to be the work of foreign Islamists - was “another link in the chain of sorrow and persecution that the chosen people of God has suffered in its history.”Among the many strong relationships he built with Jewish leaders, his deep friendship with Abraham Skorka, the rector of the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, stands out. The two wrote together a volume of reflections, On Heaven and Earth, in which they touched on the Shoah.While the question “Where was God” was an important theological and human question, “Where was man?” was an even bigger question, Bergoglio wrote, adding that unlike other genocides of the 20th century, the Shoah had a distinctive element, an “idolatrous construction” in which the Nazis claimed to be God and tried to eradicate Judaism.In 2012, when Bergoglio was Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University (UCA) of Buenos Aires, he arranged for Skorka to receive an honorary doctorate, an unprecedented act that was of enormous symbolic value given the history of anti-Semitism in some quarters of the Catholic Church. Skorka, the son of Holocaust survivors, received it as an homage to the Shoah.Bergoglio also regularly hosted at the cathedral the annual commemoration of the Kristallnacht, the 1937 pogrom that began the Nazi path to the death camps. On one occasion he lambasted the western nations that did so little to halt the ‘death convoys.’“At that time, many pretended not to notice,” he said. “Not just individual men and women washed their hands, but whole countries who for reasons of political convenience looked the other way even when they had means at their disposal, such as that power that had a way of gaining entry into the extermination camp yet did not dare to bomb it.”As cardinal he also made sure the Shoah was taught in diocesan schools and seminaries, and in 2012 he sent three seminarians to Yad Vashem.His visit to the synagogue in Rome on 17 January this year - which took place against the background of the terror attack on Paris in which Jews lost their lives - was a poignant opportunity to recall the Holocaust.“Six million people, merely because they belonged to the Jewish people, were victims of the most inhuman barbarism perpetrated in the name of an ideology that sought to replace God with man,” he said on that occasion.Their tears, he went on, “must never be forgotten.” And he added: “The past must be a lesson to us for the present and the future. The Shoah teaches us that maximum vigilance is always needed in order to intervene rapidly in defense of human dignity and peace.”For Francis, embracing God’s mercy means first being able to shed tears with those who have suffered great evil. Only when we hear the cries from the death camps can we begin to cry also for the migrants crossing the Mediterranean or the religious minorities suffering appalling persecution. In their cries are the continued tears of the Shoah.
Jul 29 16 8:39 AM
Kraków's Jews on pope's Auschwitz visit: 'It's so important to tell the truth'Pope’s visit to site of Nazi death camp in Poland where at least 1.1 million people died will ‘set example to humanity’Zofia Radzikowska, whose father was killed at Auschwitz, has never been drawn to look around the site of the Nazi death camp, just 40 miles from her home in Kraków.“I’ve been four times to conferences or official meetings, but never as a private citizen. I’ve always felt it’s an evil place. I’ve never wanted to do the tour,” Radzikowska, 80, said.But Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz on Friday – where at least 1.1 million people died during the war – will be a significant moment for her and other members of Kraków’s Jewish community.Accompanied by a group of survivors, the visit is expected to be one of the most powerful moments of the pontiff’s five-day trip to Poland.“It’s so important to tell the truth about what happened. A man like Pope Francis, who has influence all over the world, needs to see and understand – especially at a time when there is so much hatred in the world,” said Radzikowska.After the Nazi occupation of Poland began, Radzikowska and her mother managed to get false identity papers and moved from Kraków to a village where no one knew them and they could pass off as Catholics. “I knew I must never, ever admit I was a Jew,” Radzikowska recalled.Meanwhile her father was taken to the Jewish ghetto and later ended up in Auschwitz, where he died. After the war ended, she said, “we never spoke about what had happened. We survived and that was an end to it. It wasn’t until people from the west came to Poland and started asking questions that we began to remember.”The Auschwitz-Birkenau site has been a memorial since 1947, and now attracts about 1.5 million visitors each year. Two previous popes – John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict in 2006 – have visited.Some Jews have expressed bitterness that the Catholic church did not make a stronger stand against the Nazi genocide, and some priests encouraged congregations to reveal Jewish hiding places. But Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, has acknowledged more than 6,500 Poles as “righteous gentiles” for risking their lives to save Jews.“They were very difficult times,” said Radzikowska. “Most people just wanted to survive. I have no bad feelings to Polish Catholics. I used to have very bad feelings towards Germans, but not any more.”Representatives of Kraków’s Jewish community will meet privately with Pope Francis after the pontiff’s visit to Auschwitz.Jonathan Ornstein, executive director of the Jewish community centre in Kazimierz, Kraków’s Jewish quarter, said: “I plan to thank him for his stand for the disadvantaged and oppressed. As Jews we are always cognisant of our history and the need to stand up for others. Pope Francis has taken a strong position on this.”Ninety per cent of those who died at Auschwitz were Jews but thousands of Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war were also sent to the gas chambers, shot or died of disease, hunger or other causes.“Auschwitz is the strongest possible signal of what intolerance can lead to,” said Ornstein. “Pope Francis has a unique moral position in the world to speak out forcefully on the side of the oppressed.”The pope has said he will not make a speech at the site of the death camps. “I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds – only the few people necessary. Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry,” he said last month.Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, has said the pope’s visit would set “an example to humanity”. He welcomed the pope’s intention to remain silent: “You have to remain silent when you are there, to then shout out loud to the world about what you have seen.”According to Jakub Nowakowski, director of the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków, the postwar communist era was “not a time when wounds could be healed. Instead of education and commemoration, there was oblivion.”Most of Poland’s Jewish population had died, and those that survived often hid their Jewish identity. “Jews had to make a choice: continue being Jewish elsewhere, or stay but stop being outwardly Jewish. Many went underground and changed their names,” said Ornstein.“Now their descendants are finding out, sometimes with deathbed confessions from grandparents. And these young people are taking action to explore their Jewish heritage.”Nowakowski said: “There’s a new generation of Polish Jews who are proud to be Jewish.”The pope’s visit would remind people of Auschwitz’s unique place in history, he added. “You get tourists who say they’re disappointed that there aren’t any interactive multimedia experiences. ("Multimedia experiences" in Auschwitz?! "Inappropriate" is putting it very, very mildly!) But we need to simply remember, and Francis’s visit – his prayers and contemplation – will help people do that.”According to Ornstein, it was a symbol of hope that “down the road from Auschwitz, the epicentre of the Holocaust, we now have a thriving and growing Jewish community once again”.
Jul 30 16 6:55 AM
Rabbi was behind meeting between Pope, Polish rescuersWARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Pope Francis' visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Friday included an encounter with 25 Christian Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust - a powerfully symbolic meeting that Poland's chief rabbi played a key role in orchestrating.Rabbi Michael Schudrich, a native of New York City whose grandparents all immigrated from Poland, had long hoped to see such a meeting in Poland between a pope and some of the remaining Poles who risked their lives during World War II to help and protect Jews.Yad Vashem in Israel has recognized 6,620 Polish gentiles who sheltered Jews among the so-called "Righteous Among the Nations." Today fewer than 240 in Poland are still alive.Remembering their sacrifices is an important part of Schudrich's mission as the spiritual head of Poland's Jewish community, and he has often said that one can never do enough for them.In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Schudrich said the pope's meeting with survivors was "something I have been thinking about for a while: what kind of non-material present, what kind of thank-you, can we give to the 'Righteous'?"He noted that a U.S. group, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, offers them some financial help. "But I wanted to come up with a spiritual gift and I thought that a special blessing from the pope would make them feel honored because of their unbelievable morality and humanity," he said.He said he approached members of the church hierarchy several months ago with the idea of including a meeting during the pope's visit to Poland this week.They were receptive and then they all got down to the business of organizing the meeting, which happened Friday during the pope's mostly silent visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.Schudrich had tried to arrange a meeting between a group of Righteous and Benedict XVI when that pope visited Poland in 2006, but it did not work out. (I wonder why?) John Paul II had met with some at the Vatican during his papacy, but it was the first such encounter at one of the former death camps.Francis met with them one by one and presented each one with a gift in a small red box.One, 86-year-old Tadeusz Stankiewicz, valued the fact that the pope made his visit in silent contemplation, saying the site "is no place for pompous speeches which are not always honest."Stankiewicz had hoped to tell the pope that faith in God helped him and his family overcome fear and help Jews, but there was no possibility to speak.Schudrich said he was grateful that the pope met with the Righteous and also valued his silent homage to the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau, most of whom were Jewish.Afterward, when he met Francis briefly, he said he told him: "Thank you for your prayer of silence."He said the pope responded: "Pray for me."
Jul 30 16 7:55 AM
Aug 6 16 6:23 AM
What Pope Francis’ visit to Auschwitz means to the JewsJERUSALEM (RNS) - There are three major stations on the papal itinerary of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation today. Initiated by St. John Paul II, followed by Pope Benedict XVI and now confirmed by Pope Francis, they are the Great Synagogue in Rome, the state of Israel and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.The visit to the first acknowledges the special religious bonds that connect the church to the Jewish people. Visiting Israel reflects the church’s recognition of the focal point of contemporary Jewish life.But the full significance of both can only be truly appreciated in the shadow of Auschwitz.For it is the memory of past hostility toward the Jews and of Jewish vulnerability that enables us to appreciate the significance both of the remarkable Catholic-Jewish reconciliation of the last 50 years and of renewed independent Jewish national sovereignty.It was a great privilege to be present when Francis paid his impressive silent homage to the victims of the Shoah at Auschwitz-Birkenau. At this place that bore witness to the most systematic, industrialized atrocity in the history of humanity, words are inadequate and silence becomes the ultimate expression of solidarity with the victims.To fully appreciate his silence, one must also take note of things Francis has written and said aloud.In the book he wrote with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, “On Heaven and Earth,” he asserted the uniqueness of the Shoah as the systematic attempt to annihilate the Jewish people’s existence as a whole.And in keeping with his predecessors, he also declared it is impossible for a true Christian to be an anti-Semite. The fact that this statement might be obvious to most Christians today is itself a testimony to the dramatic positive transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations in our times.But up until 50 years ago, Jews were widely presented in the Christian world as rejected and cursed by God — an approach that demonized and even dehumanized the Jew.It was precisely under the impact of the Shoah that the Second Vatican Council convened by St. John XXIII proclaimed “Nostra Aetate,” the historic document that rejected this approach and ushered in a new era of positive teaching regarding Jews and Judaism.Accordingly, Francis stated in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” that “the friendship which has grown between us (Christians and Jews) makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions … especially those that have involved Christians.”As a leading Catholic clergyman said to me as we left Birkenau, “Who knows how different it might have been had Nostra Aetate been issued 30 years earlier.”Not only has Francis reaffirmed his predecessors’ description of anti-Semitism as “a sin against God and man,” he also stated that anti-Zionism that denies the right of national independence to the Jewish people is precisely part of that anti-Semitism.As the third pope to visit these sites, Francis has very much enshrined them in papal itineraries for the future, ensuring that the Christian-Jewish reconciliation will always be part and parcel of the “papal agenda.”Still, Catholicism and Judaism are two significantly different religions. We also have different collective memories and interpretations of them. This is especially the case in relation to the Shoah and the role of the Holy See during that tragic period.Jewish organizations, including my own, have been calling on the Vatican for decades to open the Vatican Secret Archives for transparent scholarly review. This is important in itself. However, in the end, no matter how much analysis and review there may be, the differences between the church and the Jewish people are likely to remain.For while a pope is not just another temporal leader for the Catholic faithful, the vast majority of Jews will not consider any interpretation or justification to be adequate in the face of the atrocity of the Shoah.It is time for us to understand this and to respectfully agree to disagree. It is time not only to respect each other’s differences and symbols, but also to accept that we have different memories and interpretations.Of course the lessons of the Shoah must never be forgotten. But at the same time it is precisely in the shadow of the Shoah that we can appreciate how far Catholics and Jews have come and where we are today.Regardless of whether Francis opens up the archives, he is the personification of the blessed transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations in our time and it was precisely his silence in Auschwitz-Birkenau that highlighted this for the entire world to see.
Sep 13 16 3:23 AM
Pius XII's duel with HitlerWhen Mark Riebling’s Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War against Hitler appeared last year, it earned widespread acclaim. Well written and meticulously researched, Riebling’s book highlights a series of long-forgotten episodes from World War II: Pius XII’s daring efforts to kill Adolf Hitler and end his genocidal regime. Now, thanks to filmmaker Christopher Cassel, Riebling’s book has been turned into an equally gripping docudrama, Pope vs. Hitler. Propelled by a taut script, Cassel’s film recreates these events with powerful acting and scenery, interspersed with commentary from historical experts.Pope vs. Hitler recently premiered in New York, and aired subsequently on the National Geographic Channel. It has since become available online. If the sustained ovation Cassel’s film received at its premiere is any indication, its impact is going to be large.Pope vs. Hitler opens by asking whether Pius XII really was “Hitler’s Pope,” as John Cornwell notoriously alleged, or rather, as Riebling’s book maintains, Hitler’s implacable enemy. Cassel includes critics, and not just supporters, of Pius XII. But his film makes clear where the hard evidence lies.Adolf Hitler and Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) were both born into Catholic families, but only Pacelli embraced his faith with sincerity and commitment. “As Hitler and Pacelli come of age,” says the narrator, “their paths will diverge dramatically, along the courses of good and evil.” Pacelli entered the priesthood to serve Christ, while Hitler became an unhinged apostate. As events unfolded, bringing Pacelli and Hitler to power—one at the Vatican, the other in Germany—a showdown emerged, “between the Vicar of Christ and the anti-Christ.”After attaining power in 1933, Hitler unleashed his fury, first against the Jewish community, then against anyone opposed to his maniacal regime. He loathed faithful Catholics, and campaigned against them in an undeclared war on the German Church. Pope Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli, then Vatican Secretary of State, protested these crimes from Rome. Their protests culminated in the searing anti-Nazi encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge (1937), written in German and read from Catholic pulpits throughout Nazi Germany. But Hitler remained deaf to these appeals.By 1939, Pius XI’s health seriously declined, and he died in February of that year, denouncing the Nazis to the end. He was succeeded by Cardinal Pacelli, his trusted advisor. As Pacelli became Pope Pius XII on March 12, 1939, Europe was “coming apart at the seams.” Hitler had already annexed Austria, would invade Czechoslovakia in three days, and was threatening to conquer Poland.In August 1939, Hitler summoned his supreme military commanders to his private mountain in the Bavarian Alps and described how he planned to lay waste to Poland. His plan appalled the generals, men of Christian background. But, sadly, as the historian Nigel Jones comments, their military obedience overwhelmed their sense of decency, and most of them “went along with the orders.” Far more courage would be needed to challenge Hitler.After the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, tens of thousands of Poles were rounded up for elimination, provoking Vatican Radio to condemn the atrocities: “Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettos, hermetically sealed. … It adds up to a fearful total and tremendous responsibility, one more grievous affront to the moral conscience of mankind, one more contemptuous insult to the law of nations, one more open thrust at the heart of the father of the Christian family [Pius XII], who grieves with his dear Poland and begs for peace with decency and justice.”One of the few flaws in Cassel’s otherwise admirable docudrama is that it omits any mention of this early, and striking, Vatican condemnation of Nazi war crimes. Instead, a critic of Pius XII appears on screen, and asks rhetorically, “Can you imagine if the Pope had said, ‘This is a dark evil that we have to resist’?” But one doesn’t have to imagine it at all. It is precisely what Pius XII did.As Riebling recounts in Church of Spies, on October 20, 1939, Pius issued an encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, known in English as Darkness over the Earth. The encyclical begins by denouncing anti-Semitic violence:Who among the “Soldiers of Christ” does not feel himself incited to a more determined resistance, as he perceives Christ’s enemies wantonly break the tables of God’s Commandments to substitute other tables and other standards stripped of the ethical content of the Revelation on Sinai? … [One] must confront such wickedness by saying: “Non licet; it is not allowed!”The encyclical denounced Nazi-style racism and totalitarianism, and was hailed throughout the world. “Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism,” declared the front page of the New York Times. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency added: “Although it has been expected that the Pope would attack ideologies … few observers had expected so outspoken a document.” The Allies were so pleased with it, they air-dropped tens of thousands of copies inside Germany.Not long afterwards, in March of 1940, Pius XII had a confrontational meeting with German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, about which the New York Times reported: “It was also learned today … that the Pontiff, in the burning words he spoke to Herr von Ribbentrop about religious persecution, also came to the defense of the Jews in Germany and Poland.”Ronald Rychlak and David Alvarez do point out, in the docudrama, that the Church tried “speaking out” against Nazi evils—indeed, the Third Reich branded Pius XII “a mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals”—but the result was invariably mass reprisals, against both Catholics and Jews. Hitler was no more influenced by denunciations of his regime than ISIS is influenced by condemnations of their heinous crimes.As Pius XII confronted the evils of the Third Reich, a high-risk plot developed inside Germany. For years, numerous German officers, especially inside the Abwehr (the German military intelligence), had grown increasingly shocked by Hitler’s actions and the invasion of Poland, with all its horrors. The Abwehr’s two leaders, Admiral William Canaris, and his deputy, Hans Oster, hatched an elaborate plan to kill Hitler, punish his henchmen, form a new German government, and establish peace with the rest of Europe. But in order to prove their good will, they needed a figure of impeccable moral stature, trusted by both sides, who could vouch for their credibility. The German conspirators could find no better man than Pius XII, and they reached out to him, through Joseph Mueller, an anti-Nazi German Catholic lawyer who had been providing secret intelligence to the Vatican for years.Here the documentary moves from being a good documentary to being an exceptional one, as all the major plots against Hitler’s life are described and acted out, in harrowing and gripping detail, including the three that Pius XII was deeply involved in. The heroism and sacrifices of the anti-Nazi resisters—many of whom lost their lives after they were discovered—are also movingly depicted.Despite an effort by several commentators to question Pius XII’s character and conduct, the facts and evidence overwhelm such skepticism, and Pius XII emerges as a genuine hero. Even one critic acknowledges that Pius XII saved many Jews, and another calls him “great.” The only debate left is whether he was a saint, and those who have studied the matter closely believe that his beatification and canonization are not far away.Whatever the future holds for Pius XII’s cause, Mr. Cassel’s documentary deserves credit for highlighting many essential facts about Pius XII’s wartime record, in a fair-minded and conscientious way, and thereby performing a true act of historical justice.
Who among the “Soldiers of Christ” does not feel himself incited to a more determined resistance, as he perceives Christ’s enemies wantonly break the tables of God’s Commandments to substitute other tables and other standards stripped of the ethical content of the Revelation on Sinai? … [One] must confront such wickedness by saying: “Non licet; it is not allowed!”
Oct 11 16 5:26 AM
Jacob Neusner, Judaic Scholar Who Forged Interfaith Bonds, Dies at 84Jacob Neusner, a religious historian of enormous breadth and productivity and one of the world’s foremost scholars of Jewish rabbinical texts, died on Saturday at his home in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He was 84.A spokesman for Bard College, where he taught for 20 years, confirmed his death, saying he had been treated for Parkinson’s disease for many years.Professor Neusner (pronounced NOOSE-ner) gave new meaning to the adjective “prolific.” “A Life of Yohanan ben Zakkai,” his 1962 study of one of the most important Jewish sages, marked the beginning of an astonishingly productive scholarly career. Over the next half-century, he published more than 900 books devoted to history, source analysis, comparative religion and legal theory. (Good heavens! That's an average of 18 books per year!)He also edited and translated, with others, nearly the entirety of the Jewish rabbinical texts. His editions of the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud run to more than 50 volumes. In “Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast,” the Judaic scholar Aaron W. Hughes called him “perhaps the most important American-born Jewish thinker this country has produced.”Professor Neusner was instrumental in bringing the study of rabbinical texts into nonreligious educational institutions and treating them as historical, literary and social documents. In so doing he courted controversy by asserting that multiple Judaisms, arising from local conditions, coexisted in the period after the fall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He put forth this thesis in “Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah” (1981), which the religious scholar Jonathan Z. Smith called “a Copernican revolution in rabbinical studies.”A fierce polemicist, Professor Neusner was “part of almost every significant American Jewish controversy since World War II,” Shaul Magid, a professor of Jewish and religious studies at Indiana University, wrote in the online Jewish magazine Tablet in August. He insisted on regarding Jews not as the chosen people, or marked in any special way, but simply as one religious and ethnic group among many.Although he called himself a Zionist, in an address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1952, he said, “Israel’s flag is not mine. My homeland is America.” In “Strangers at Home: The ‘Holocaust,’ Zionism, and American Judaism” (1981), he maintained that American Jews had an unhealthy fixation on Israel and the Holocaust.Professor Neusner was a cultural conservative who opposed feminism and affirmative action. In 1989, while serving on the National Endowment for the Arts, he joined with Senator Jesse Helms and others in attacking the endowment’s support of a traveling exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.In more recent years, he signed a 2009 declaration by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a conservative Christian public policy organization, criticizing “unfounded or undue concerns” about climate change, overpopulation and species loss.Tablet noted, “He is perhaps most widely known for his irascible, sometimes quite nasty and often pugnacious personality, his famous excoriating reviews, sometimes book-length critiques, and his fallings-out with almost every institution he worked in, almost every teacher who taught him, many of his students — as well as the errors that scar his many translations and publications.”Professor Neusner’s interest in comparative religion and interfaith understanding led him to write several books on Christianity, notably “The Bible and Us: A Priest and a Rabbi Read Scripture Together” (1990), with Andrew M. Greeley, and “A Rabbi Talks With Jesus” (1993), which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, called “by far the most important book for the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade.”After the pope spent 20 pages discussing the book in “Jesus of Nazareth,” Time magazine called Professor Neusner “The Pope’s Favorite Rabbi.”Jacob Neusner was born on July 28, 1932, in Hartford, Conn., into a family of Reform Jews. His mother was the former Lee Green and his father, Samuel, published The Jewish Ledger, a weekly newspaper.His religious instruction was casual, and he did not study Hebrew. But early on, he gave clear indications of future trends. On one of his third-grade report cards, his teacher wrote, “He prefers not to do as the others are doing, which causes many difficulties.” (Clearly a maverick in the making.)After graduating from William H. Hall High School in West Hartford, he enrolled at Harvard. There, he encountered Jewish religious texts, taught by Harry Austryn Wolfson as works of religious philosophy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1953.He spent a year at Lincoln College, Oxford, before studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he was ordained a Conservative rabbi. After a year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he studied the Talmud under Rabbi Saul Lieberman at the Jewish Theological Seminary, which awarded him a master’s degree in Hebrew letters in 1960.That year he received a doctorate in religion from Columbia University, where he studied in a joint program in religion with Union Theological Seminary.It was at Columbia, influenced by Mircea Eliade and other writers on comparative religion, that he first saw Judaism as “not particular but exemplary, and Jews not as special but (merely) interesting.”He developed his sociocultural approach to rabbinical texts while teaching at Dartmouth in the 1960s. He later taught at Brown and the University of South Florida before joining the religion department at Bard College in 1994. At Bard, from which he retired in 2014, he founded the Institute for Advanced Theology with Bruce Chilton.He had a bitter falling out with his former teacher, Rabbi Lieberman, who, in a posthumously published review of Professor Neusner’s Jerusalem Talmud, took the editor and translator to task for “ignorance of rabbinic Hebrew, of Aramaic grammar, and above all of the subject matter with which he deals,” pronouncing the work for “for the waste basket.”Professor Neusner fired back with several articles and, in 1994, a scathing book, “Why There Never Was a ‘Talmud of Caesarea’: Saul Lieberman’s Mistakes.”Professor Neusner is survived by his wife, the former Suzanne Richter; three sons, Samuel, Eli and Noam; a daughter, Margalit Neusner; and nine grandchildren.In addition to many works for specialists, Professor Neusner wrote a number of books for students and general readers, including “The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism” (1970) and “Judaism: An Introduction” (2002).After hundreds of books, he still regarded himself as a student. In “Translating the Classics of Judaism: In Theory and in Practice” (1989), he wrote:“No serious inquiry into the classics of Judaism can start without a systematic retranslation of those classics, time and again, for age succeeding age: All learning begins in the naked encounter with the unadorned document, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter. Document by document, all of it, all together, but, alas, step by step. After 20 years of work of a sustained and systematic order, I am still crawling.”
Nov 17 16 6:03 PM
German Protestants officially renounce converting Jews to Christianity(RNS) Tackling a delicate issue as it begins its yearlong celebration of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany’s main Protestant church has officially renounced its mission to convert Jews to Christianity.In practice, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), made up of 20 regional Lutheran, Reformed and United churches, mostly gave up efforts to convert Jews in the decades after the Holocaust, and closing that chapter should have been a formality.But officially abandoning the “Judenmission,” or Mission to the Jews, turned out to be theologically complicated.In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave his Apostles the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.” And small groups of evangelicals in a few member churches have long opposed an official statement against conversion, despite calls from Jewish groups to issue one.The EKD’s annual synod, which it calls its “church parliament,” finally drew up a resolution that was passed unanimously on Nov. 9 in Magdeburg. It said that Christians “are not called to show Israel the path to God and his salvation.”Since God never renounced his covenant with the Jews, his chosen people, they do not need to embrace the new Christian covenant to be saved, it said.“All efforts to convert Jews contradict our commitment to the faithfulness of God and the election of Israel,” the resolution read. That Christians see Jesus as their savior and Jews don’t is “a fact we leave up to God,” it said.Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, welcomed the resolution, which his group had been urging the EKD to pass for several years.“This clear renunciation of the Mission to the Jews means very much for the Jewish community. With it, the EKD recognizes the suffering that the forced conversion of many Jews over the centuries has caused,” he said.Luther’s anti-SemitismThe EKD has worked for the past decade to prepare a year’s worth of events worldwide to commemorate Luther’s 95 Theses, which legend says he nailed to the church door in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517. Lutherans worldwide will mark the anniversary, but the focus will be in Germany.Although he initially expressed concern for the plight of Jews in medieval Europe, and hoped to bring them into the Christian fold, Luther changed tack later in life and in a treatise titled “On the Jews and Their Lies,” he urged his followers to burn down their homes and synagogues and confiscate their money.The move to renounce the Judenmission was part of the EKD’s drive to deal with this embarrassing strain of anti-Semitism in their history so the Reformation anniversary could focus on Luther’s other legacies.The EKD synod last year denounced the “undisguised hatred of Jews” in Luther’s writings and acknowledged that his anti-Semitism had inspired the Nazis centuries later.In fact, the EKD synod broke with traditional theological anti-Semitism in 1950 by declaring that God’s covenant with the Jews was still valid. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that most member churches came out clearly against evangelization efforts.The EKD wasn’t alone in changing its approach to Jews slowly. The Roman Catholic Church renounced its theological anti-Semitism in 1965 with the pioneering document Nostra Aetate at the Second Vatican Council.It took another 50 years before the Vatican issued a clear statement last December that it “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”US Lutherans take different approachesThe Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest U.S. Lutheran body and a mainline denomination, denounced theological anti-Semitism in a 1994 declaration and urges its members in dialogue with Jews to “respect our neighbors’ concerns” about conversion.The conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the second largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., has also denounced Luther’s diatribes against Jews but follows his injunction “to pray for them, so that they might become converted.”In Germany, most evangelicals belong not to the 23 million-member EKD but to the German Evangelical Alliance, which claims over 1 million members. But some evangelicals are in EKD regional churches and have long defended some kind of mission to Jews.They are strongest in the regional church in Wuerttemberg, the region around Stuttgart, where a group called the Gospel Service for Israel opposes outright conversion but supports “Messianic Jews” who accept Jesus as the savior of Israel.The group claims to have over 1,000 members, including immigrants who have come from Russia since communism collapsed there in 1991.In Bavaria, a group calling itself Confessing Christians — a name that recalls the Protestants who opposed Hitler — were against any renunciation of evangelization efforts, maintaining this would limit religious freedom by denying Jews the right to change faiths.Messianic Jews pose a conundrumInternal debates leading up to the synod focused on how clear the renunciation of the Judenmission should be.The final text denounced efforts to convert Jews but did not specifically mention Messianic Jews, a group of Jews who accept Jesus as savior but who are not regarded as Jews by mainstream Judaism.“The secret of God’s revelation includes both the expectation of the return of Christ in splendor and the confidence that God will save his first-called people,” it said.Some synod participants felt the declaration should have renounced the Messianic Jews and worried that the failure to mention them meant the EKD was keeping a back door open to encourage Jews to convert.Schuster, the Jewish leader, said he understood the renunciation of evangelization “also applies to the so-called Messianic Jews, who are not Jews.”Detlef Klahr, a senior synod official, told journalists there was “no loophole” in the resolution. Evangelization of Jews was clearly ruled out by the resolution, he said.
Dec 5 16 2:15 AM
“The most important aspect of this meeting are the bonds of friendship that have deepened over the years - the meeting of hearts and minds.” This comment, made by Archbishop Bruno Forte summed up the atmosphere of the two day meeting this week of the bilateral committee of delegates of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. The Committee meets regularly and this month’s timely theme was, “Promoting Peace in the Face of Violence in the name of Religion”. Co-chairs of the two 6 member delegations were Peter Cardinal Turkson (President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) for the Catholics, and Rabbi Rasson Arussi (Chief Rabbi of the Israeli town of Kiryat Ono) for the Jews. While the topic was widely discussed with foreseeable and total agreement on the positive role religious leaders can play by setting examples of respect and solidarity, by admitting the terrible past sins committed in the name of religion, by the unity of shared common values based on the sanctity of life, by stressing the importance of education, “repudiating the violent use of religion”, etc. But perhaps the most unusual and noteworthy point of the 8 point final declaration was the last. Without specific mention but with blatantly obvious reference to UNESCO’s recent and controversial motion regarding Jerusalem’s holy sites in which they were called only by their Arab and not Hebrew names, the Joint Declaration stated, “In discussion on current issues, the principle of respect for the holy sites of each religion was confirmed; and note was made of attempts to deny the historical attachment of the Jewish People to its holiest site. The bilateral commission vigorously cautioned against the political and polemical denial of biblical history and called on all nations and faiths to respect this historic religious bond.” It has become a truism in the past half century that the Hebrew Bible indelibly binds Christianity to its Jewish roots and that the teachings of Jesus arose from his Jewish upbringing, even when he contested current practices of the ruling class.. It is therefore quite obvious that both Catholics and Jews would feel equally outraged at the politicized attempt by UNESCO to rewrite biblical history. Rabbi David Rosen, Director of Interreligious Affairs for AJC, noted that this was “a meeting of second generation leaders of this dialogue, ushering in a new era in Israeli-Vatican religious relations with full commitment on both sides. It was the first meeting since the death of founding Jewish co-chair, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen. Tribute was also paid to Catholic former co- chairs, Cardinal Jorge Mejia and Cardinal Georges Cottier. Mr. Oded Wiener was confirmed as coordinator of the Jewish delegation, Rabbi Moshe Dagan welcomed as the new Director of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and congratulations offered by all to Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa “on his elevation the episcopate and appointment as Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A very concrete sign of the prevailing atmosphere took place at the end of the encounter with the group spontaneously bursting into song in Hebrew of psalm 133 (”How good and pleasant it is for brethren to live together in unity”) begun by a Catholic official and in which all, Catholics and Jews, immediately joined in at the farewell reception hosted in his home by Israel ’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Oren David. Only a little more than half a century has passed since “Nostra Aetate” and just a few decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See but considering the centuries of tormented and tragic vicissitudes that marked Catholic - Jewish relations, it seems like we have lived through a millenium of transformations in this brief period and miraculously given birth to a new, remarkably sturdy friendship that will provide the strength and courage we will need to face together the serious challenges of years to come. The two delegations were composed, respectively, of: Peter Cardinal Turkson (Catholic Chair), Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa O.F.M., Archbishop Bruno Forte, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Msgr. Pier Francesco Fumagalli, Fr. Norbert J. Hofmann S.D.B.; Rabbi Rasson Arussi (Jewish Chair, Rabbi David Rosen, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg, Rabbi Moshe Dagan, Mr. Oded Wiener.
Dec 11 16 2:47 AM
BBC admits it underestimated the Church’s opposition to Hitler The BBC conceded it was false to describe the Church as being 'silent' in the face of NazismThe BBC’s internal watchdog has found that a programme wrongly accused the Catholic Church of “silence” about the Holocaust.After Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz in July, BBC One’s 6pm news bulletin carried a report which stated: “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonised Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”In response, the cross-bench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fr Leo Chamberlain, the former headmaster of Ampleforth, made an official complaint.Nearly six months later, the BBC’s editorial complaints unit has now concluded that the item was unfair. According to the unit, the BBC reporter “did not give due weight to public statements by successive popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”Pope Pius XII, who was the pontiff during World War II, has been accused of silent acquiescence to the Holocaust, most famously by a 1999 book, Hitler’s Pope, which sparked a major controversy among historians. Its author, John Cornwell, has since backed down on some of his claims.In a blog post criticising the BBC report, Lord Alton pointed out that several historians had praised Pius’s achievements in the fight against Nazism. The peer quoted Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish historian and Israeli diplomat, as saying that Pius XII “was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.”Through its diplomatic network, the Holy See under Pius XII helped Jews to travel safely out of Eastern Europe. It also issued baptismal certificates to Hungarian Jews to help them escape. Thousands of Jews were also sheltered in the Vatican itself.Lord Alton quoted the Jewish Chronicle’s praise of Pius (“Such actions will always be remembered”) and Albert Einstein’s remark in 1940 that “only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth … I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”Lord Alton also drew attention to the many Catholics, both clerical and lay, who opposed Hitler – from Bishop Clemens von Galen of Münster, who openly denounced the Nazis’ euthanasia programme, to Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer executed for refusing to fight in the Wehrmacht. Both have been beatified.After this week’s ruling, Lord Alton told the Catholic Herald: “The BBC is right to recognise that the libel that Catholics said and did nothing against Nazism is precisely that, a collective libel. I am grateful to them for doing so.”He added that the notion the Church had remained silent was “a canard that is either repeated through sheer ignorance or because the facts don’t fit the story.”Lord Alton also noted the “irony” that part of the report had come from St Maximilian Kolbe’s cell at Auschwitz. St Maximilian, who died after taking the place of another prisoner, “had been arrested for publishing a denunciation of the Nazis in his magazine, Knight, which had a circulation of around one million people. Hardly silence, then.”Lord Alton called for “a new BBC documentary that examines the evidence and corrects the distorted caricatures and lazily regurgitated half-truths and untruths.”The BBC’s editorial complaints unit said that the news team responsible for the report had been notified, “so that any future coverage might reflect historical understanding more closely.”
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.