00 5/8/2009 6:18 AM

A 'mea culpa' is due from those
who said Benedict XVI is not
a friend of the Jewish people

by Giorgio Israel
Translated from

March 24, 2009

A truly extraordinary document destined to pass into history is the letter of Benedict XVI wrote to the bishops of the Catholic Church about his lifting the excommunication of four bishops consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Extraordinary first of all for the absolute clarity with which he examines the case in all its aspects, confronting its associated controversies and pronouncing blunt judgments.

Not a detail is neglected (not even acknowledging the need to use the Internet more), not a single aspect is left obscure, particularly that which has to do with the scandalous implications of the Williamson case, arising from the bishop's condemnable negationist statements about the Nazi gas chambers.

But above all, the letter is extraordinary for the impassioned way in which the Pope laid bare his own state of mind and the motives which led him to openly face this episode.

This proved right those who have, through the tempests of recent months, always maintained that Jewish-Christian relations had not been in any way compromised by the decisions made by Benedict XVI.

Indeed, Rabbi Jacob Neusner, with whose texts the Pope had fashioned a theological dialog for his book JESUS OF NAZARETH, has always said that it is thanks to men like Joseph Ratzinger that the Jewish-Christian dialog is alive and prospering.

He has always acknowledged the good intentions of the Pope, noting that the new course set by Vatican-II on Catholic relations with the Jews, was reaffirmed by how, "with a pure heart, the Pope cited my imaginary conversations with Jesus in his book".

The course of Jewish-Christian relations, said Neusner, may have its occasional stumbling blocks, but it is irreversible.

And the overwhelming majority of the world Jewry thinks the same way, even as it proceeds to resume in full along the path of dialog.

It also supports what this writer has written about, along with other Italian Jews like Guido Guastalla, which resulted in not a few stones cast at us by other Italian Jews.

I would have prefered not to write about personal experience in an article, but there are occasions when one has the right to rid one's shoes of those little bits of stone that have settled in.

When we claimed, for instance, that the revised Good Friday prayer for the Jews should not be understood as an expression of Catholic intention to proselytize Jews, we were stigmatized as the Pope's 'court Jews'.

When it was proposed to suspend Jewish-Christian relations, we expressed our dissent quite peaceably. But God forbid! Some representatives of the Italian Jewry, presuming to have dogmatic authority, attacked us violently along the lines "Shut up now - only we can speak to this regard".

Then came the Williamson case, and we were among the very first to request maximum clarity, certain that such would come from the Pope himself, because we are convinced that his intentions are transparent.

This time the fallout came from some Catholics who believe that to show they are Catholics, they have to exceed in zeal to the point of being fanatical. They called us - who had defended the Pope from unfounded accusations - presumptuous and arrogant Jews who dared to meddle in Church affairs!

Now that the Pope himself has given the most authoritative confirmation that we were right in what we stand for, and that the facts have shown how unjust and detestable was all the stone-throwing from both sides of the issue, it would be natural to expect some sincere apologies.

Only one has come from our side so far, and from a person who only had a secondary role in the attacks. Otherwise, nothing but silence.

On the other hand, some of the protagonists of the uncivil aggression shown towards us for being on the side of the Pope are now grooming themselves to be the leading players in the resumption of the Jewish-Christian dialog. 'No comment'.