Cardinal Martino does it again

January 9, 2009

Cardinal Renato Martino, the papal aide who angered Israel and Jews by comparing Gaza to a “big concentration camp” is no novice at being outspoken or controversial. The southern Italian cardinal speaks his mind, loves to talk and sometimes has had to pay the price. Martino, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (effectively its justice minister), has a laundry list of people and governments with whom he has clashed. But that hasn’t stopped him.

(Photo: Cardinal Martino at the Vatican, 12 April 2005/Tony Gentile)

Perhaps his most famous remark came in December, 2003 when, shortly after U.S. troops captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Martino told a news conference at the Vatican that U.S. military were wrong to show video footage of Saddam. “I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures,” he said at the time.

The “treated like a cow” remark was heard around the world and, needless to say, was not very appreciated in the White House. The Vatican had opposed the U.S.-invasion of Iraq in March of that year. In fact, a certain chill developed between Martino and then U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson, a Vietnam veteran who later went on to become Bush’s Secretary for Veteran Affairs.

While that is the Martino quip everyone remembers, there has been no lack of others.

In 2005, ahead of a meeting of the Group of Eight rich nations summit in Scotland, he pointedly said the United States had to “open its eyes” about the problems of Africa. He angered anti-immigration parties in Italy by backing a proposal to allow Muslim pupils in Italy to study the Koran in state schools. He angered U.S. conservatives, including well-known television commentators, when he said Washington’s plan to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border was part of an “inhuman programme.”

(Photo: Cardinal Martino visits AIDS patient in Abidjan, 19 May 2007/Luc Gnago)

The former Vatican diplomat, who was the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations in New York from 1986 to 2002, made headlines again last year when he called on Catholics to withdraw support their financial support for Amnesty International over the group’s call to decriminalise abortion.

Martino had more of a free rein during the papacy of Pope John Paul, who was not shy himself about speaking out. But Vatican sources have said Pope Benedict wants his cardinals to keep a lower profile and that Martino had been told by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to keep the lid on and not be so controversial.

The cardinal obviously disregarded the advice when he gave his interview with the Gaza=concentration camp comparison to the Italian on-line newspaper His comment only added to the speculation Israel’s military operation in Gaza is putting Benedict’s tentatively planned trip to the Holy Land in May in serious doubt. While both the Vatican and Israel have officially said the trip is still on, diplomats are not so sure.

(Photo: Israeli weapons explode over Gaza, 9 Jan 2008/Suhaib Salem)

What do you think of Martino’s concentration camp comment and his outspokenness in general? Do you think the pope should go ahead with his planned Holy Land visit despite events in Gaza?


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While I don’t agree with the cardinal’s pity towards saddaam Hussein, I do comend him for him calling the situation in gaza what it really is: a concentration camp. the israelis are doing everything the nazis did to the jews, except they are using different methods. the nazis used gas chambers, the israelis are using tanks, bombs, and shells. isn’t israel supposed to have a american made technologically advanced weapons? even with all that they can’t differentiate from the schools and shelters and militant hideouts?? I commend the pope and the cardinal for saying what western powers are to afraid to say. I don’t think the pope should make the trip israel, unless he is going there to set them straight. its voices of fairness, reason and justice like the pope and the cardinal that need to be heard more, not the war mongoers government puppets.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Martino is right.

Those issuing the orders to murder the innocent on this grotesque scale in Gaza are not the ones flying the planes or manning the tanks that devastate Gaza by the hour. The pawns are doing that, the fodder people of the Israel Defence Forces, the IDF, which was formed from the Zionist terrorist groups like Haganah and Irgun that bombed the State into existence, as I outlined last week.

These pawns are the young people, from the age of 18, who are conscripted into the Israel military whether they like it or not. Conscripted men must serve for three years and women for nearly two years and they are also required to be ‘in reserve’ after that to be called up at will by the dark suits and dark ‘hearts’ of the Israeli leadership.

But what if they refused to do that and were prepared to take the consequences because their sense of right was more powerful than their sense of fear? As they said in the 1960s: ‘What if there was a war and no-one turned up?’ …

… The Israeli government propaganda, in league with the unquestioning media, especially in the United States, present the impression that all Israelis are behind the war and occupation in Palestinian lands. But this is a lie.

There is significant opposition by brave Jewish people in Israel who choose to face the wrath and hostility of Zionist authority, and those who have their perceptions implanted by Zionist authority, because they are determined to do what is right as a human being, as a consciousness, and not as a cultural software program called an ‘Israeli’.

Posted by Li Chan Hong Kong | Report as abusive

I have to agree, to some extent, with Cardinal Martino.
I find the timing of this offensive interesting. Perhaps a test for our newly elected president and other leaders of the world.
Could Israel be saying:Are you with us? Forget Nato. Same as Bush and Co. asked and did when we invaded Iraq.
So far, Obama has not taken the hook.
We shall see….

Posted by wildcat | Report as abusive

Remember 9/11?
The Gazans, Hamas members in particular, were filmed dancing and singing in the streets to joyful cries of “Allah Akbar” in celebration. They do not cry for “the infidel” and that means anyone who is not a Muslim. Al-Quaeda and Hamas are part of the larger Jihad network of worldwide terror. Is the U.S. wrong to seek to stop Al-Quaeda from killing thousands more of its citizens?
Hamas not only kills Israeli citizens, they kill and oppress their own people. There are confirmed reports that Hamas hijacks the trucks bringing free aid to the Gazans and SELLS it to their own people. They use their children and all civilians as human shields (either way they win: if the Israelis don’t shoot, they get away; if they do shoot, they have a PR coup and many photos will be taken).

The Israelis phoned a house that was used as a massive weaponry cache to warn the family living there that their house would be bombed in 1/2 hr. Did they flee? No. They called Hamas, who sent dozens of women with their babies to stand on the roof of the building. Israel did not bomb it, but had they not checked, having duly forewarned (more than any other country at war would do) they would have been accused of an inhuman massacre of women and babies with the full photo-op to meet the world-wide press.
Would it have been the Israeli’s fault? Or Hamas’.
Don’t believe it? See for yourself: (a picture is worth a thousand words): To sE sg 7k rk 1M

Cardinal Martino IS wrong. He is eating what the world media is feeding everyone and swallowing it hook-line-and-sinker. He is wielding painful words that are too reminiscent of many Jews not-too-distant past and using it to slap them in the face instead of thanking them for doing the world’s (and the Gazans’) dirty-work, of trying to rid it of a horrible terrorist regime . Others use his words to justify anti-semitic behavior (such as the list they are compiling in Rome of Jewish-owned stores to boycott. Is another Krystalnacht around the bend in Rome, the world….justified by the Cardinal’s incitement?).

Posted by Anothervoice | Report as abusive

This guy is a blabbering freak and a bad Catholic, just like Joe Gaff Biden. Everytime he opens his mouth, he not only reveals his ignorance, he makes Catholics look bad, and he reinforces the historical antisemitism of the Catholic church.
Where are all the decent Catholics with guts and reason who need to denounce this antisemitic freak that he is and say he doesn’t speak for us.

Anothervoice is spot on. It seems that not only have we forgot 911, but also that these people voted for these terrorists who use their own people as human shields and use schools and mosques to store weapons. All Gaza has to do is just stop firing the rockets into Israel. End of story.
It was Hamas, the terrorists who broke the truce and sent in the rockets. Now the Marxist leftist media is crying because the victim is scratching the rapist.
What if all the women and children of Gaza said “No more. We refuse to be silent ignorant pawns.” Why don’t any of the so-called “peace-loving Muslim” leaders or government officials publicly denounce Hamas.

The Catholic church is letting this guy spread his propaganda while they look the other way, just like it kept “transferring” known child molester priests to another parish, because no one had the spine, integrity, or intelligence to stand up.
If Muslims were really peaceful, there would be tens of thousands of letters, phone calls, and emials jamming the lines of every muslim government office in the middle east demanding Hamas be removed.

I would rather be killed by the enemy than knowingly exploit my children and be used as a pawn or a human shield to advance the terrorist political agenda. If they refuse, what then??? Maybe their peace-loving leaders will kill them??

The pope should visit Israel as planned, and publicly apologize to Israel and the world for this Cardinal, and for all the years of Anti-semitism perpetuated by the Catholic church. Underneath that bright red cloak is spineless eunuch.

Posted by Bartosz | Report as abusive

so anothervoice, you claim that just because people were celebrating after 9/11 that justifies the murder of women and kids. even though for decades we have supported oppresive regimes like israel, sadaam in iraq, saudia arabia,pakistan, etc.for decades people in the middle east, africa, and latin american have suffered under the oppresive regimes we have supported, so u know what i can’t blame them for feeling a satisfaction when we take a hit.they are not americans so there is no need for them to have symphathy towards us. the israelis have killed thousands more people then hamas have. hamas, hezbolla, and other jihadi groups are a product of israeli and american policies. they did not exist before there was an israel. americans were not hated until we started supporting the oppression and tyrannical ways of these regimes.israel has been stealing land, cutting of food and supplies to an already broken population for decades, its about the time the world comes to term with their war crimes and holds them accountable. i give this cardinal for standing for the truth and justice, which more then what we can say about the brain washed politicans in west and europe. this is the sign of a true religious man, not some extremist who hides behind the guise of the bible, torah, and qoran, trying to justify murder and genocide. god bless him

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

[…] ‘A number of senior Christian politicians have been happy to put their name to the new venture: Cardinal Renato Martino, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is the institute’s […]

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