An as­ton­ish­ing act by this Ger­man Pope


The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

THE EX­TRAOR­DI­NARY de­ci­sion of Pope Bene­dict XVI to lift the ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion of four tra­di­tion­al­ist Catholic bish­ops who head the Fra­ter­nity of St Pius X, one of whom is Holo­caust de­nier Richard Wil­liamson, has now been an­swered by the de­ci­sion of the Is­raeli Chief Rab­bis to break off of­fi­cial ties with the Vat­i­can.

While the Chief Rab­bis’ re­ac­tion is un­der­stand­able, it won’t help. The Vat­i­can’s action, for close watch­ers of Pope Bene­dict XVI’s ap­proach to Catholic-Jewish re­la­tions, is not wholly sur­pris­ing.

Neg­a­tive views of Ju­daism have long been part of the Catholic tra­di­tion­al­ist move­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liamson, 9/11 was a con­spir­acy by the US. Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, Shi­mon Sa­muels, di­rec­tor of the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­tre, con­cluded that Wil­liamson is “a clown, but a danger­ous clown.”

The Vat­i­can has stressed that lift­ing the ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion is not an en­dorse­ment of his views on the Holo­caust. How­ever, its rep­e­ti­tion of its com­mit­ment to CatholicJewish di­a­logue and to com­bat­ing an­tisemitism sounds hol­low in the light of this lat­est act — not only to Jews but also to many Catholics who are out­raged.

In the 20 years I have been teach­ing Jewish-Chris­tian re­la­tions, I never thought I would wit­ness a time when, in the name of Chris­tian unity, a Ger­man-born Pope would bring back into the fold a Holo­caust­de­nier.

It will have con­se­quences, not just in terms of re­la­tions with Jews but with other faiths. By re-com­mu­ni­cat­ing ex­treme, con­ser­va­tive Catholics, Pope Bene­dict XVI is say­ing he cares lit­tle for re­la­tions with the out­side world. In May, he is due to visit Is­rael. If the trip goes ahead, we are likely to wit­ness an­other con­tro­ver­sial phase in the pa­pacy of this con­ser­va­tive Pope. Dr Ed Kessler is di­rec­tor of the Woolf In­sti­tute of Abra­hamic Faiths, Cam­bridge

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