OyChicago blog

Serious advice for the Pope on Jewish-Catholic relations

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05/12/2009

It seems like the Pope just can't get favorable coverage in the Holy Land, no matter what he does.

For example, Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at Yad Vashem was described in an Israeli newspaper today as lukewarm. He disappointed the staff of Yad Vashem and Holocaust survivors by his use of mild terminology and not apologizing for German atrocities. (He is German born and had to join the Hitler Youth and the German Air Force).

However, the Pope’s personal history with Nazism or his almost reinstatement of a Holocaust denying priest is really not what’s at issue here. Nor is his speech that probably needed a better editor or two.

The issue is in order to have complete reconciliation, you need to have truth.

And Jews simply do not have that yet from the Vatican.

Pope Benedict must authorize the release of Vatican archives from the time of Pope Pius XII, no matter what their contents or how unflattering they are. Those documents then need to be put into context of the Vatican’s power or lack of power during WWII and the antisemitism that led to the Church’s probable complicity during the war. Just as priests, nuns and other Catholics who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust have been recognized as “Righteous Gentiles” by the state of Israel, in order to heal, the negative parts of the story must be known.

Considering the scales of the atrocities, German-Jewish relations are good. Why? The Nazi documentation as it pertained to the so called “Final Solution” has been accessible to historians since shortly after the war. Although the relationship isn’t perfect, when a German leader visits Israel, he/she is not criticized about the Holocaust as the Pope has been during his visit.

Until the archive is open, a full and robust relationship between Jews and the Church just won’t happen - no matter how much time passes. And if there is a desire to reconcile, the entire truth must be uncovered.

When it is, and after it is digested, and the apologies are made, anything the Pope says at Yad Vashem will be praised.

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