Benedictions: The Pope in America

Rather than dissipating ahead of Benedict’s visit to New York and Washington, Catholic-Jewish relations appear to be growing more problematic by the day. There is a history here, not just of the past 2,000 years, but also over the past three years under the pontificate of Pope Benedict. But the issue tapping into that unease–from the Jewish side–continues to be the re-authorization and then re-editing of an older Good Friday prayer that called for the conversion of the Jews. (See our previous post.)
The Anti-Defamation League says the latest tweaks are “two steps forward and three steps backward.” That is from ADL chief Abraham Foxman, whose statements are always sure to bring out the worst in the darker corners of the Catholic blogosphere. More to the point, perhaps, are the onjections of the Chief Rabbbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, who has called for a “pause” in Catholic-Jewish dialogue “to ask ourselves what sense this dialogue makes.” He made his comments in the Italian magazine 30 Giorni, and it is translated by Sandro Magister–a must-read exchange.
Now Cardinal Walter Kasper, Vatican point man for dialogue with Judaism, has weighed in with a commentary in the Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romano (also translated by Magister) in which he tries to bring his usually reliable sensibility (he took on Joseph Ratzinger when both were cardinals over some of Ratzinger’s more undiplomatic statements) to the issue. Kasper is in a tough place, clearly, but he may have stumbled unnecessarily when he says that “reactions shown on the Jewish side are to a great extent motivated in an emotional, rather than rational, way.” Kasper hastens to add that those reactions “must not be dismissed hastily as being caused by hypersensitivity.” And he concludes with another plea for sensitivity.
But it doesn’t look as though this dialogue of the deaf is going anywhere anytime soon. Unless Benedict can do some serious fence-mending when he visits the U.S., especially Manhttan’s pake East synagogue.

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