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The Deacon's Bench

“The speeches of the pope were of enormous importance to everybody, not only to us, but to everybody. What he contributed at Yad Vashem was a completely different approach which was an enrichment to the culture of memory, and it was almost a wake-up from an unexpected corner for people to think a little bit differently, and not to expect a ritual. This pope is not one who is getting into existing patterns of rituals — it’s not a challenge for him intellectually — so he would like really to set his mind and contribute his own thoughts, which are rather deep thoughts about what Yad Vashem means.

This pope didn’t come as a German pope, and this was a second misreading of him. I never saw him as a German pope, although we communicate in German with each other, he wasn’t elected as a German pope, and he doesn’t see himself as a German pope, no matter what the Germans say. So it’s more through the head, the theological mind. He’s not a newcomer to sort out what kind of approach Catholics should have toward Judaism as a result of the Second Vatican Council. He has contributed a lot, and we have a friend in him. This is often misunderstood, because he’s a conservative. He is an example that you can be a conservative in terms of theological approaches, (and) also in terms of what he calls the hermeneutic of continuity after the Second Vatican Council, and then, all of a sudden, still be very friendly to Jews. This is a little bit surprising for many liberals within the Catholic Church who feel very much frustrated and think that the main prerequisite of this liberal spirit is their approach to Judaism. We need to work a lot to make them understand that continuity doesn’t mean necessarily to have anti-Jewish approach.”

— Mordechay Lewy,
Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, discussing Benedict’s recent trip to the Holy Land.
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