For all of Irinej Gavrilovic’s 80 years, his Serbian Orthodox Church has kept its distance from the Vatican and the pope, maintaining a division whose roots date back a millennium. But only a few days into the job as the 45th Serbian Orthodox Patriarch, Irinej has several times repeated an invitation to the Roman Catholic pontiff, hoping that both men could celebrate a significant anniversary in 2013.
Bishop Richard Williamson, the ultra-traditionalist prelate whose denial of the extent of the Holocaust created an uproar in the Catholic Church and with Jews early last year, has said the discussions at the Vatican to rehabilitate his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are a “dialogue of the deaf.” Williamson, one of the four SSPX bishops whose bans of excommunication were lifted by Pope Benedict only days after his controversial views were aired on Swedish television, said the two sides had “absolutely irreconcilable” positions.
Visiting synagogues is not getting any easier for Pope Benedict.
Today’s meeting with Rome’s Jewish community was the third time he has entered a synagogue, which is a kind of a papal record considering that his predecessor Pope John Paul — probably the first pope to do so since Saint Peter two millennia ago — made only one such visit himself.
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.