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My earlier post about Pope Benedict XVI’s reinstatement of four excommunicated bishops was for informational purposes and in no way endorses either the tone or content of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s analyses. While I appreciate Riskin’s pain and frustration brought about by the Pope’s endorsement of Richard Williamson, an avowed Holocaust denier and rather loony conspiracy theorist, I found his approach to the entire situation arrogant, self-serving and insensitive.


Is it really appropriate for Rabbi Riskin to give New Testament lessons to the Pope? Even if the rabbi’s reading of John 8:32 is correct, making such one-sided pronouncements about the meaning of other people’s scriptures is the height of arrogance. If that is the spirit in which the Rabbi’s Center for Jewish Christian Understanding operates, he should shut it down as quickly as possible.
If nothing else, the rabbi should ask himself how much damage has been done by well-meaning and sincere Christians misreading Jewish texts. Why does he presume to do better by theirs than they have often done with ours? Does he find it appropriate when others isolate individual lines from the Hebrew Bible to prove the inappropriateness of policies supported by him, including the recent war in Gaza?
And who is Rabbi Riskin to suggest that this one ace by the Pope constitutes a death blow to Catholic-Jewish relations? If he is right, then there was no real relationship to begin with and he needs to reflect on the nature of the inter-faith work he has done.
The concluding paragraph which indicates that the return of prayers for the conversion of Jews, Cardinal Martino’s recent comparison of Gaza and a concentration camp, and the reinstating of these Bishops as all having the same meaning is really hard to understand. At lease it is until one appreciates that the only test for Rabbi Riskin is whether of not Church actions please Jews who happen to agree with Rabbi Riskin. If that kind of approach doesn’t set back inter-group relations, I don’t know what will.
But Rabbi Riskin is correct about one thing: the Pope should examine his conscience. So should Rabbi Riskin. Each needs to ask if they are doing all that they can to reach out beyond their own ideological boundaries to nurture better relationships between people of different faiths. I actually suspect that the Pope did just that in making his most recent decision. I may not agree with it, but I think there is something to be learned from it. More on that later.

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