Pope silent on separating Jerusalem from Jewish history
When men and women of the cloth – leaders of religious institutions – bend theology toward the imperatives of their political leanings, all they mostly achieve is the staining of their cloth and the discrediting of their theology.
No religion is exempt from the earnest, photo-opportunity displays of a leader invoking or implying God’s approval of his or her preferred political outcomes. One recent example of politics subtracting considerably from religion’s moral weight occurred on Jan. 14 at the Vatican.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) opened the official embassy of Palestine in Vatican City. Pope Francis effusively greeted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a man he has previously called “an angel of peace.”
Abbas was naturally quite appreciative of the Pope’s partisan initiative. “We are very grateful about the role that the Holy See has played for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, and for having opened an embassy of Palestine in the Vatican for the first time,” Abbas said.
Then, perhaps swept up by the surreal circumstance of the occasion, Abbas added: “We are proud to be the birthplace of Christianity and about having one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.”
How Abbas can reconcile a claim to be the birthplace of Christianity with the PA’S frequent, overheated denials of any Jewish history in Jerusalem might be acceptable to the record keepers at Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not. But it should not have been acceptable to the keepers of the Roman Catholic Church.
Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, whom Abbas in 2006 appointed as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, has repeatedly declared that a Jewish Temple never existed on the Temple Mount. In this, he was echoing Yasser Arafat’s famous denial to then-u.s. president Bill Clinton of the existence of a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Indeed, less than two weeks ago, PA Jerusalem affairs minister Adnan al-husseini rebuked UN secretary general Antonio Guterres for saying it is “completely clear that the Temple that the Romans destroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish temple.” Al-husseini said Guterres had “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary general… and must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.”
And while the PA president preened about having “one of the oldest Christian communities in the world,” he omits the truth that Christians have been in flight from the Pa-controlled territories ever since the PA assumed governmental authority after 1993. Bethlehem was once 80 per cent Christian. Today it is about 15 per cent.
The Jan. 14 opening of the Palestinian Embassy in the Vatican was the third in a trifecta of devastating blows – over a period of three months – to historical integrity and truth. In late October, UNESCO effectively eradicated any Jewish connection to the city of Jerusalem. In late December, Resolution 2334 of the Security Council purported to make any Jewish activity in the Old City of Jerusalem, including at the Western Wall, to be illegal under international law.
There is no report how, if at all, Pope Francis responded to Abbas’ self-serving fabrications or to the blow he must have known the Palestinian leader had dealt to church doctrine and historical truth.
Indeed, the Vatican has been singularly silent regarding each of these three recent initiatives against Israel and the Jewish People. What does the Pope say about the Palestinian leaders’ concerted campaign to separate Jerusalem from its Jewish history? Does he have anything to say to the Jews of the world on this subject? If not to the Jews, what does he say to his own flock, whose religious beliefs also rest on the foundation of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem?
In the result, we are entitled to feel a sense of disappointment and even outrage at this inexcusable silence. And sadness too. For the world today surely needs stronger, not diminished, voices of honesty and moral rectitude.