Thursday, November 14, 2002

From the Jerusalem Post:

A very, very interesting and fairly balanced article on Vatican-Jewish relations.

.... The head of Rome's Jewish community, Leon Paserman, is concerned that the theological and political dialogue between the Holy See and the Jews seems frozen.

Paserman, a retired business executive, acknowledges the current pontiff's expression of regret for the persecution of Jews during the past two millennia. He credits him with having led the way to recognition of Israel by the Vatican, and the establishment of diplomatic relations. But since the pontiff's return to Rome from his millennial pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Paserman says the situation has changed. He blames the current war between the Palestinians and Israel, plus the Vatican's effort to nurture links with the Islamic world.

Paserman also cites the influx of Muslims into Europe as a contributing factor, as well as political hostility toward Israel. Paserman refers to the papal resort to parallelism in condemning suicide bombings, arguing that no one should take his own life for political purposes while at the same time expressing understanding for the plight of the Palestinians.

BUT BBC correspondent David Willy, who has been monitoring the Vatican's arcane politics for longer than the former Karol Wojtyla has been the Holy Father, says, "There couldn't have been a pope with more understanding of the relationship with the Jews."

A seasoned journalist whose assignments included the Yom Kippur War (which he covered from the Israeli side) as well as numerous journeys and one-on-one conversations with the pontiff, Willy believes the pope's outreach to the Jewish people is as sincere as it is profound. He cites the unprecedented and highly symbolic visit to Rome's main synagogue in 1986, the pope's reference to contemporary Jews as "our elder brothers," his personal contact with Polish Jews he has known for decades, notably Jerzy Kluger "with whom he still is in touch," and his inclusion of Italian Jewish leaders in the Vatican's public receptions.

Willy said the pope's millennial pilgrimage to Israel "affected him profoundly." Bearing in mind that he spearheaded the church's decision to recognize and establish formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, Willy refers to the pontiff's need to also consider the church's relations with the Muslim world, and the status of its clergy and parishioners in the various Arab states.

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