Pope’s synagogue visit splits Italy’s Jews over stand on Pius XII

January 16, 2010
rome synagogue

Rome synagogue, 7 July 2008/Jensens

Deep splits have appeared in Italy’s Jewish community just before Pope Benedict makes his first visit to Rome’s synagogue, with at least one senior rabbi and one Holocaust survivor announcing a boycott.  The row revolves around the pontiff’s decision last month to raise nearer to sainthood wartime Pope Pius XII, who many Jews say did not do enough to help Jews facing persecution by Nazi Germany, a position the Vatican rejects.

Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni has decided to go ahead with the visit and told Reuters he believed only God could judge Pius XII.

Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, president of Italy’s rabbinical assembly, announced he will not attend the visit on Sunday to protest at what he said were a series of Vatican moves seen as disrespectful to Jews, including the pope’s decision to start the rehabilitation process last year of traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson, who denied the extent of the Holocaust.

“The pope knew perfectly well that several weeks later he would be visiting the synagogue and he knew how sensitive we are about the issue of Pius XII. Wouldn’t it have been opportune to delay (the decision) by a few months?” Laras asked in the Milan newspaper Il Giornale.

Laras, a former chief rabbi of Milan, said in another interview in the German Jewish weekly Jüdische Allgemeine that the visit should have been cancelled. He said ties between Catholic and Jews had “become increasingly weaker during this pontificate.”

laras interviewThe Jüdische Allgemeine interview (the headline at left reads: “I’m staying away from the pope’s visit”)  is worth reading in full. Here is our translation from German:

Q. Rabbi, the pope will be the guest of Rome’s Jewish community on Sunday. What do you expect from the visit?

A. “Not much. In my opinion, the meeting will hardly have any immediate positive effects on Jewish-Catholic dialogue. Only the Church will have any advantages from it, especially in the eyes of its conservative wing. It will use the event to announce their ‘cordial friendship’ with us.”

Q. Why didn’t the community call off the meeting after Benedict XVI, just before Christmas, recognised the “heroic virtues” of his controversial predecessor Pius XII?

A.“You have to put that question to the Roman Jewish community and its chief rabbi. The idea of calling it off was welcomed by many (Jews) in Italy, especially in families of Holocaust survivors and some rabbis. But it didn’t come about because it was felt that would be impolite. After all, the pope was invited to come.”

Q. Do you see it that way?

A. “At first, I was also against calling it off, but I urged the Vatican to explain what was supposed to be heroic about Pius XII. After the Jewish community asked, there was an explanation, but it didn’t clarify anything. So I decided to stay away from the papal visit.”

Q. Why didn’t the Italian Rabbinical Assembly link the meeting with a condition that the Vatican archives on Pius XII must be opened?

A. “The Rabbinical Assembly was confronted with a fait accompli. The opening of the archives could surely bring some clarity about the controversial personality of Pius XII.”

Q. The pope often calls Jews “elder brothers.” How is this brotherliness looking these days?

A. “To my great regret, I must say that this ‘brotherly relationship’ has become increasingly weaker during this current pontificate. There have been several ‘slip-ups’ along the way, such as the issue of the Good Friday prayer, the lifting of the excommunication of the Holocaust denier Bishop Williamson and the hymns of praise for Pius XII.”

Q. Will they talk with Benedict about the Society of Saint Pius X?

A. “You have to ask the Roman Jewish community that question. The visit was their initiative. I’d just like to say that the pope, although too late, did call on Holocaust deniers among the Lefebvrist bishops to renounce (those views).”

Q. In the current situation, how do you evaluate the relationship to the Catholic Church?

A. “In Italy, Christian-Jewish dialogue has practically come to a halt. The dialogue suffers from the fact that it only takes place at the top level. Dialogue needs a broad basis. That means that more people have to be able to take part in it.”

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4 comments

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The great respect needs to be for the God of the Jews. The Catholic Church fulfilled Daniel prophecies and rejected the word of God in the Bible. They have established a god other than Jehovah God and His word. Jews who accept the message of peace instead a message of repentance for turning multitudes from the God of Israel would not please Jehovah. God promises HE will destroy false teaching etc. Both popes mentioned have been sent corrective messages and have rejected them. Jews need to return to the truth of God’s word without adding traditions of men and without accepting false religions among them.

Jesus said to live by EVERY word of God, as did Moses and that was the message through Muhammad, emphasizing the Torah and Gospel and whatever God sent down. It is the Catholic Church and its daughter churches that stand in the way of the Kingdom of God; that must change. Jews cannot see Jesus as the Messiah because Christians portray him as the false prophet of Deuteronomy 13. He did away with nothing; his message was Repent, not ignore God’s word through Moses and the Prophets.

In Leviticus 26 God promises terror and 4 x 7 curses to those who reject His word UNTIL we turn to His truth. Haiti’s poverty and destruction would not happen with true religion. They had a major Catholic teaching and they accepted Voodoo as an accepted national religion through former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

http://www.divine-way.com God has solutions to world problems we created by ignoring His wisdom.

Posted by MarieDevine | Report as abusive

I’d like to ask the Jewish community where IT WAS during the days of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was sitting in that jail cell in Birmingham Alabama leasding his just cause against the injustice of racism?

I’ll tell you where the Rabbi’s of the community were, lined up right with the rest of the racist white population of Birmingham Alabama! For proof I refer you to Dr. King’s letter that he wrote to the clergy that informed him that his peaceful protests were not the way to go.

You would think the murdering of SIX MILLION JEWS BY ADOLF HITLER (caps intentional) would have had some effect? I wonder how many of cogregation members of the Rabbi’s that were involved had those infamous numbers tatooed on their arms?

So maybe the Jewish community should take a step back on the Pope Pius issue. And please do not insult me by stating that one issue is more tragic that another.

As Jesus Christ has stated in Luke 6:42 “42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend,* let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Birmingham Alabama is a pretty big log in the Jewish communities eye. Worry about that first before you go attacking the Catholics.

Posted by cronkbrast | Report as abusive

@ Cronkbrast.

So according to you, the discrimination of African Americans was equal to the holocaust.

There is a reason you didn’t want people to point it out. Because it is as bad as it sounds.

Not only that, but then you seem to believe that the entire Jewish community was racist towards African Americans during King’s time, so they have no right to judge others.

As you have no way of knowing whether all Jewish people in America were racist at that time, that makes YOUR comment racist and offensive.

Perhaps YOU need to remove a log from your eye?

PS. As the Jewish faith believe that the messiah is yet to arrive, and that Jesus was either a prophet or a fraud, it is fairly daft to quote New Testament Gospel at them.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

All of you need to remember that Isreal is God’s chosen people. They will come to the truth of Jesus when God lets them. The we will all be holding the hand of a Jew. Everything that has happened in this world is a test for us, that is all. Where is your heart? where is your mind/ If you read the Bible or the Torah or any thing about God you know that the wicked will be destroyed and the rightious will live forever..that is all anyone needs to know in order to save yourself, and help others the best as you can. The past is the past and has no meaning except to see where your heart is really at. Haiti and all tradigy cannot be said to be because of the wrong religion, it could be a test to show other people how small minded you are. Look to God and keep your heart pure.

Posted by PatricMorr9 | Report as abusive