Saturday, May 09, 2009

Pope's mixed messages to Jews

היום שלשים יומים שהם ארבעה שבועות ושני יומים לעמר
Today is the thirtieth
day of the omer - four weeks and two days
גבורה שבהוד

A day of strength in a week of humility

The photo above is from Time Magazine. If you click on the photo, you'll see an article on the seemingly ambiguous relationship the present Pope, Benedict XVI, has with Jews as he embarks on a trip to Israel. It is of some interest not just because of his role as head of the Catholic church, but because he is German who grew up under Nazi rule.

From the article:
" . . . since Benedict's election, his relations with Jews--although similar in broad outline to John Paul's--have been plagued by mixed messages that have caused critics to wonder whether he has botched the opportunity to redress past shortcomings and strengthen the church's ties to the Jewish people. Like John Paul, Benedict came of age in one of the Holocaust's European slaughterhouses, and many expected that the Bavarian, like the Pole, could turn his somber history into a special authority for combatting anti-Semitism and pursuing the pro-Jewish reforms the church enacted at the Second Vatican Council in 1965. But he hasn't done so. Instead, says David Gibson, the (Catholic) author of The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World, 'here's a Pope who grew up under the Nazis, who witnessed this whole thing, a man with such an acute and vivid sense of language and experiences--and yet for whom one of the great dramas of the 20th century is somehow invisible in what he communicates.'"
For instance, Pope Benedict reversed the 1988 excommunication of four bishops of an ultra-traditionalist Catholic group called the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a group that denies the existence of the Nazi gas chambers. Again, from the article:
"Then an unlikely figure entered the fray: Angela Merkel. German Chancellors don't usually weigh in on church matters, she said. But when the Vatican gave "the impression that it could be possible to deny that the Holocaust happened," she felt compelled to demand that the Pope repudiate the idea, lest it affect relations with "the Jewish people as a whole." In essence, Merkel (a Protestant) was tutoring the German Pope on his responsibilities to the Jews."
It's hard to for me to fathom that someone in such a position in this day and age can still be so clueless as to what it means to even hint at denying the Holocaust--especially someone who lived through that time, involved in the action. And especially someone who's words can make a big difference in healing the rifts that still exist. Maybe on his trip to Israel this week he will find those words.

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