Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Holy Father in Israel

An excellent analysis by the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“Most Israelis seem to agree that the pope's just concluded trip to Israel wasn't a raving success. Far from healing wounds, his address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum garnered harsh criticism for failing to adequately address the horrors memorialized there.

“I see the visit in a much more positive light.

“Jewish-Christian relations have always been of a wary sort, laced with mutual suspicions that have deep theological roots, and with painful memories of persecution and anti-Semitism. But in the past half-century, the church's attitude toward Jews has undergone a fundamental shift.

“The Nostra Aetate -- the Declaration on the Relations of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, issued by the Second Vatican Council and published in 1965 -- was the harbinger of the change in Catholic attitude toward the Jews and their faith. Later, Pope John Paul II further advanced the process of reconciliation.

“Karol Wojtyla had been a fighter in the Underground against the Nazi regime and had many close Jewish childhood friends. Deeply aware of the horrors that befell the Jews during World War II, Pope John Paul's personal sympathy for and close acquaintance with the Jewish people led to an era of fruitful dialogue and rapprochement between Jews and Catholics.

“This healing was made possible mainly because the pope, together with Jewish leaders, focused on shared values, biblical traditions and moral principles common to both faith communities.

“Pope Benedict XVI does not yet enjoy the goodwill his predecessor generated. Aspects of his past and statements he has made are arguably controversial and have generated criticism -- some valid -- from Jews.

“But this week, he arrived in Israel for the first papal visit in nine years. I was part of a delegation that greeted him in a special ceremony at the airport. Sadly, a number of Israeli political and religious leaders refused to participate.

“Had they attended, they would have heard the head of the church speak of the terrible suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, their biblical rights to the land of Israel, and the deep bonds between the Christian and Jewish faiths. Had they joined him on his journey, they would have heard him lash out against Holocaust denial, condemn anti-Semitism -- past and present -- and seen him pray at the Western Wall.”