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Catholic-Jewish relations continue to deteriorate

posted by David Gibson

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has broken ties with the Vatican. Though there may be some hope in light of the pope’s comments earlier today. Here’s the AP story:

JERUSALEM – Israel’s chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
The Jewish state’s highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See expressing “sorrow and pain” at the papal decision. “It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before,” the letter said. Chief rabbis of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were parties to the letter.
The rabbinate, which faxed a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, also canceled a meeting with the Vatican set for March. The rabbinate and the state of Israel have separate ties with the Vatican, and Wednesday’s move does not affect state relations.
Pope Benedict XVI, faced with an uproar over the bishop, said Wednesday he feels “full and indisputable solidarity” with Jews and warned against any denial of the full horror of the Nazi genocide.
The remarks were his first public comments on the issue since the controversy erupted Saturday.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican hoped that in light of the pope’s words, “the difficulties expressed by the Israeli Rabbinate can be subjected to further and deeper reflection.”
Lombardi expressed hope that dialogue between the two parties can continue “fruitfully and serenely.”
Oded Weiner, the director general of the chief rabbinate’s office, welcomed the pope’s remarks, calling them “a big step toward reconciliation.”


Meanwhile, Phil Pullella of Reuters updates his Jewish reax story (Elie Wiesel interview below) with this:

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said he hoped it would be “sufficient to respond to the doubts expressed about the position of the pope and the Catholic Church” on the Holocaust. But Jewish leaders said it was not enough.
“We still want to be reassured that the views that Williamson expressed have no place in the Church,” said Rabbi David Rosen, head of inter-religious dialogue for the American Jewish Committee.
“We appreciate his sincerity but our concern is that there should not be any room for mixed messages.”
Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said:
“Clearly the damage remains. As welcome as the pope’s remarks are they contain a glaring omission, the demand by the Vatican that Williamson renounce his heinous views.”



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posted January 28, 2009 at 9:38 pm


In attempting to be fair here, I would state that Pope Benedict is not responsible for the insane remarks of one bishop of the SSPX Movement. Benedict could not possible know what would come out of Bishop Williamson’s mouth.
However, I do believe that Benedict is in error not to consult with his advisers like Cardinal Walter Kasper (who has so much more experience in Jewish/Catholic relationships than Benedict does). In more than one case, Benedict has shown himself to be a real successor of Peter—open mouth and insert foot!
In another article dealing with this same issue, Brian Coyne, editor and publisher of Catholica (from Australia), makes a pointed and truthful comment. The Pope is worried about the 5% of the Catholic population that claims that they (the traditionalists) are the only true Catholics and all the rest are lost. Meanwhile, Benedict XVI has paid not a tad of attention to the 86% who have walked quietly away from the Church. They have left because their Shepherds, including John Paul II and Benedict and their bishops do not concern themselves with their questions, their struggles, or with giving them the good example to continue within the fold.
When is the Pope going to care for this 86% the way he cares for the Traditionalists?



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posted January 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm


The issue is that the lefebvrian break away Catholic sect is indeed the continuator of traditional Catholic values and of the Church from the pre VATICAN reforms. You ask what about the 86% of the Catholic who are lapsed. In a modern secular society it is to be expected. This has happenned to all Christian and non-Christian denominations when confronted with the materialistic and secular indeed overtly sexually explicit society that is the new globalized economy. It is prevalent in Eyurope, Japan, North America, Australia. Only in the underdeveloped world of Africa and Latin America is there still some support for traditional religious values and behaviour. And here it is changing very rapidly. In Africa you have the phenomenon of syncratism and new African religions whereby one is a member of many denominations and they themselves are semi-animist or integrate pagan and withcraft into their sevices. The The problem is how to modernize and tame the unrestrained materialism and indeed material greed. See the financial crisis and a large percentage of students are studying just that to become financial managers and bank officials, brokers and speculators, etc. That is one of the things that the Church has to address as well as poverty andmarginalization of the rest of society. Thank you Tom TSuka



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posted January 30, 2009 at 6:23 pm


Sorry, Tom,
I am sick to death of hearing that the reason 30 million Catholics in America (from Pew Report) from 2001, have left the Church is because of materialism. It is because the Vatican and the Official Church in America (read Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and at times priests), do not care a pin about the spiritual needs of the people.
I have a friend who is a layman with a degree in spirituality/pastoral ministry—who gives retreats, conferences, etc. all up and down the mid-West. He is able to garner quite a crowd whenever he comes.
People say to him: “My pastor (priests) don’t know how to touch the great spiritual hunger the way you do.” He’s Catholic—doesn’t present anything off the beaten path. The trouble is: most of our bishops have their degrees in canon law—not spirituality and not in
pastoral care—and they cannot really touch people’s hearts.
But this clap-trap about Western materialsim is just that—-baloney!
Feed the people’s spiritual needs, be pastor to them—-and see how they respond.



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tom tsuka

posted January 30, 2009 at 11:45 pm


Yes indeed what you point out is just one of the problems amongst many.Yes many priests come with various temperments and styles and enthusiasms, various ways of connecting and not connecting with the congregants, some are community minded others are bureaucrats or administators types, paying attention only to the formal practice, etc. This is why in protestant denominations the congregants can decide on keeping the minister or demanding a new one: the Catholic congregants are stuck with the one the local bishop assigned. However, even Pope John Paul II has spoken about this unbridled materialism and greed that is saping spirituality and religious mores which are increasingly replaced by those of the commercial world (including fashions, etc.) and the mass media with the film industry at the forefront with pushing the envelope on what is acceptible in film, from soft porn we are moving to the acceptance of hard porn as the vgenerally accepted values in film production, which by the way is the legal term for accepting a value as legitimate and hence cannot be prosecuted or banned.



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Youngling

posted January 31, 2009 at 3:51 pm


Do you guys not see how that 86% are suffering from the same causes as are the trads?
The whole bureaucrat syndrome is due to secularisation, secularisation within the Church!
Whilst large numbers of people are calling to bring more secularisation into the church, to reject traditional morality, traditional liturgy, traditional devotions, traditional obligations etc they are calling exactly for what causes the problem. They reject that stuff because they are not being shown the alternative. Do you see how useful something like the SSPX could be in countering that?



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kim

posted January 31, 2009 at 3:54 pm


I believe all should be acountable for there own words and not hide behind thier positions! all can be stupid its’s a fact of life! We as people must learn from!



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DJ

posted January 31, 2009 at 10:54 pm


My perspective is: I am a Jew who is married to a Catholic. I have had many, many positive experiences with lay Catholics, nuns and priests. I have had almost no negative experiences. I read the Torah daily and pray daily.
While it may appear the Pope is ignoring or not seeing the big issues here in the USA, I think he is very much attuned to the Catholics in Europe. Mass attendance both in the US and in Europe is low and declining. I have had European Catholics tell me the Catholic Church to them is more an extension of the state than a separate and more spiritual body. For example, if you self identify as a Catholic in Germany, 5% of your income is sent to that religious body (this is the case for Jews, Lutherans and others). The people who actually go to mass in Europe are the followers of the pre-Vatican II priests, including Bishop Williamson. (It is my understanding he has been reprimanded by his superior and by the Pope for his remarks. Still, he was reinstated as a Bishop and he has not been kicked out.) One possible interpretation is that the Pope had a least two goals. He was being faithful to the statements and philosophy of Pope John Paul II regarding the Latin mass and, he was being sensitive to the people who are the “keepers of the faith” in Europe, with the exception of inclusion of Bishop Williamson.
Regarding the other big issues Catholics face, they are many of the same one we as Jews face. My personal short list of the issues includes: abortion, divorce, inter-marriage, general disintegration of the family, gay issues, secular and/or cafeteria Catholics (& Jews), a seemingly growing divide within the faith on these and other issues with each side possessing its own “true believers”, and an increasing gap in wealth between the haves and have not’s in all Western cultures.
My own example is not unique. It is easier (less threatening and emotional for all sides) for me to discuss these issues with Catholics (laity and religious) than with my own people. I have good Catholic friends who tell me the same thing.
In order to have healthy, vibrant, growing, learning and vital faith communities we will do the heavy lifting to build caring, loving and nurturing relationships in our houses of worship and in our neighborhoods. Both faiths likely have enough existing programs that can be used. Part of the answer is really listening and appreciating each others views – even when we disagree. Among our goals are to build, grow, nurture and sustain parishes and synagogues that will bring individuals, couples, families and communities closer together and build a more moral and ethical world in healthy and constructive ways through our faith.
Catholics and Jews have always led the way in America for the rest of the faiths. At this time of turmoil for our country and our world, moral and ethical leadership informed by faith is vital. We can and will provide this leadership.



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