Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Benedict XVI, the Lefebvrians, the Jews, and the State of Israel

Filed under: Europe and Israel, World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 21:3-4 (Fall 2009)

This article explores the relations between the Catholic Church and the Jews from the middle of the previous century until the present day. It will focus on how the Catholic Church has dealt with memory of the Shoah and how this has affected the Church’s relations with the Jews. It will look at the most recent developments in dialogue between the Church and the Jews under Pope Benedict XVI and the impact of his visit to Israel in May 2009.

The Shadow of Pius XII

Pope Benedict XVI had decided to return to Israel in the year 2008, but his trip was delayed by a number of obstacles. In September 2008, the question of the beatification of Pius XII was discussed in Castelgandolfo, the summer residence of the Pope, at a symposium organized by the Jewish organization “Pave the Way” and its founder and president Gary Krupp.

On 18 September 2008 Benedict XVI publicly defended for the first time Pius XII’s wartime record. However he put on hold the issue of beatification, and established a commission to study archive material about Pius’ papacy and the possible effects of his beatification on Catholic-Jewish relations. Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, the relator[1] of the cause for beatification, which began in the year 1967, did not succeed in convincing any of the ruling popes since that year – Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI – to sign the decree necessary in order to embark on the long journey toward beatification. Gumpel blamed the Jews for the fresh delay in September 2008, saying that the “real problem” is the controversy over the Jews’ perception of Pius XII.[2]

Krupp’s main purpose in organizing the symposium was to cause Yad Vashem to change the caption under the picture of Pius XII in its Jerusalem museum. However, no convincing evidence was brought to the symposium in Castelgandolfo and therefore Benedict XVI decided to take a pause of reflection and did not sign the decree.[3]

1965-2005: Dialogue with the Jews and the Struggle over the Shoah Memory

When the declaration Nostra Aetate – literally In Our Age, the declaration on the relationship of the Church with Non-Christian religions   was published in 1965 in the framework of Council Vatican II (the Second Vatican Council), Catholic and Jewish scholars alike praised the big step apparently taken by the Church in reducing the Catholic Church’s anti-Semitism, sometimes called anti-Judaism.[4]

With the Nostra Aetate the Church did not absolve those Jews who allegedly killed Jesus. Rather, it limited the blame for allegedly murdering Jesus to those Jews of that time who were responsible for it rather than accusing all Jews of all times.[5] It also stated that “the Church…decries hatred, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism.” This declaration remains the only theological step forward toward Jews since the Gospels.

The Nostra Aetate was consecutively followed by the Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate (1974)[6] and the Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church (1985).[7] TheNotes is the first Church document to affirm “the existence of the State of Israel” on the basis of “the common principles of international law.”

At the same time as these steps were being made, an attempt was underway to Christianize the Shoah. John Paul II’s intentions in this respect and his desire to transform the Shoah into a Catholic Polish event were apparent while he was still Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. In 1970, at the ceremony for the beatification of Maximilien Kolbe in Rome, he distributed ashes from Auschwitz to the Bishops present.[8] This distribution of part of the ashes of hundreds of thousands of Jews, as well as of smaller numbers of Christians and Gypsies, indicated his desire to view Auschwitz as first and foremost a site of Christian memory. One must assume that he was aware of the affront to Jews which would result from the touching, removing, and distributing of the remains of Jews’ dead bodies – actions considered by Judaism to be nothing less than desecration of the dead.

This effort to Christianize the Shoah continued after Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. Speaking in Auschwitz on 7 June 1979 – “Homily of Brzezinka” (Birkenau) – he said that “there are six million Poles who lost their lives during the Second World War: one fifth of the nation.”[9] He did not mention Jews, but focused in this speech once more on Maximilian Kolbe and the convert Edith Stein. The French author Raphaël Draї also supports the claim that John Paul II wanted to center Auschwitz on a Catholic man (Maximilien Kolbe), rather than the martyrdom of the Jewish people. This strategy would allow the Church to effectively capture the site and all that it symbolizes.[10]

In the same “Homily of Brzezinka,” John Paul II called Auschwitz “the Golgotha of the contemporary world.”[11] Golgotha, the hill in Jerusalem on which Jesus the Jew was killed, is a central site in Christianity, since it was this death which brought about the birth of the religion. The use of this imagery in respect to Auschwitz can only lead to the conclusion that he desired to equate the two outcomes. In other words, the death of so many Jews at Auschwitz is to be understood, according to Pope John Paul II, as paving the way to a stronger Catholicism in the modern day. His deliberate choice of words equated Christianity’s founding image and myth with a modern-day historical catastrophe whose main feature was the systematic destruction of the Jewish people.

Similarly, John Paul II supported the erection of a convent in Auschwitz. Later, under pressure from public opinion, he accepted that the convent should be moved to a distance of 500 meters away.[12] John Paul II’s desire to appropriate the symbol of Auschwitz to the Church was further made clear in 1986 when he decided to beatify Edith Stein, calling her “a faithful daughter of her people, the Jewish people,” while she had converted to Catholicism.[13]

On becoming Pope, Benedict XVI made efforts to bring the Church back to tradition. One of his moves was to re-instate the Missa Tridentina – Tridentine Mass – in Latin, which had been abolished by Council Vatican II.[14] On 7 July 2007 the Secretariat of State published the Motu proprio a document issued by the Pope on his own impulse and signed by him – reestablishing the use of the Latin Mass from the time of Pope Pius V (1566-1572). This move called into question the validity of Council Vatican II. By reestablishing the Latin Mass, Benedict XVI wanted to bring back into the Church the Fraternity of Saint Pius X. This Fraternity was established on 7 October 1970, in Ecône, Switzerland by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who refused to accept Council Vatican II on the grounds that it contradicted previous Church tradition.

Following the founding of the fraternity, Bishop Marcel Lefebvre was suspended a divinis – he could no longer celebrate sacraments – by Pope Paul VI. On 30 June 1988 Lefebvre consecrated four bishops and thus opened a schism in the Church. Lefebvre and the four bishops were excommunicated latae sententia – for the mere fact that they were ordained as Bishops without Papal consent. The excommunication was decided with the active participation of the then Cardinal Ratzinger (who was to become Pope Benedict XVI), head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[15]

The new missal – book containing the service of Mass – introduced by Pope Paul VI, after the Council Vatican II, also included the reading of the Bible in a cycle of three years, which was rejected by the people reverting to the ancient rite, among whom were the followers of Lefebvre. For them all Jews remained the killers of Jesus, and Jews allegedly organized plots against the coming of the kingdom of Christ.[16] As the traditional rite, this fraternity educated the faithful in an anti-Semitism that held the Jews responsible for the killing of Jesus.

The “global restoration” of about one million followers of four lefebvrian bishops accomplished by Benedict XVI had been initiated by his predecessor John Paul II. According to the Italian priest Farinella, the steps toward this included, in Italy, the recognition of “Comunione e Liberazione,” an Italian political movement near Premier Silvio Berlusconi; the Opus Dei becoming a personal “prelature” of the Pope – a dioceses not under any Bishop – in 1982; and the approval of the neo-catechumens movement which brought 45,000 persons to the Mass given by John Paul II in Corazim during his visit there in 2000.[17]

Similar steps in other parts of the world included the beatification of Ann-Catherine Emmerich who had inspired Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic film “The Passion of Christ.”[18] Priest Tadeusz Rydzyk, the Polish manager of another anti-Semitic Catholic organization, the radio network Radio Maria, was received by Benedict XVI at Castelgandolfo on 5 August 2007.[19] In addition, since 25 May 2000, Radio Maria has broadcast in English to the U.S.[20]

It would seem that Benedict XVI has made no major change to the policy of his predecessor John Paul II, but rather finalized a series of actions started some years earlier which aimed to bring various groups back into the fold of the Church.

The Holy Friday prayer concerning the Jews was modified several times in recent years. The first occasion for this was when John XXIII decided, in 1959, to abolish the adjective “perfidus” (perfidious) concerning the Jews. Later, Paul VI made another major change as well as using Italian for the prayer, rather than Latin. In his altered text there can be found a clear condemnation of anti-Semitism instead of the traditional substitution theory and the prejudice of the deicide – the collective guilt of the Jews prior to Nostra Aetate.[21] Benedict XVI returned to the possibility of using the Latin text of the Missa Tridentina on 7 July 2007 and on 4 February 2008 he modified the old Holy Friday prayer deleting two incidences of the adjective “perfidus” relating to Jews. Part of the ancient text was retained, calling upon the Jews to “recognize Jesus Christ.”[22]

The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, wrote in a detailed article that the new prayer was evidence of the return of “the hope to convert the Jews” which was known from the pre-Council text. According to Cardinal Walter Kasper,[23] this hope is only eschatological – it will be realized at the end of time. Rabbi Di Segni rightly says that Jews cannot accept the view expressed by some Catholics according to which a Jew who believes in Jesus does not contradict his own Jewish identity, but rather fulfills it: “This is an idea that Jews cannot accept,” writes Di Segni.[24] More recently, Benedict XVI himself expressed a similar idea on 25 January 2009 when he said:

“In truth, in the case of Paulus, some prefer not to use the term conversion since – they claim – he was already a believer, even a fervent Jew, therefore he did not pass from non-faith to faith, from idols to God, and he was not obliged to abandon the Jewish faith in order to adhere to Christ.”[25]

In these words, Benedict XVI made a clear distinction between paganism and Judaism; for him Judaism is not a separate faith but an ancient phase in the history of Christianity. This attitude also sheds light on his views on dialogue with the Jews. As Cardinal Ratzinger claimed that the “mission and the dialogue should not be two antagonist forms but should co-penetrate mutually.” Naturally, Christianity should not become more Jewish, but Judaism should move closer to Christianity.[26] He was also very clear in his document Dominus Jesus (2000) in which he wrote concerning inter-religious dialogue:

“Such dialogue certainly does not replace, but rather accompanies the missio ad gentes [mission to the peoples]…. Inter-religious dialogue, which is part of the Church’s evangelizing mission, requires an attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal enrichment.[27]”

The end of the same document states that

“inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of its evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in its mission ad gentes…. The Church must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth revealed by the Lord, and announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ.[28]”

The Jews are no exception and should accept this “truth.” Rabbi Di Segni is convinced that a “dialogue which has the purpose of converting us, has no interest for the Jews.” In the old-new prayer, the only occasion for the Church to pray for the Jews, hope for the conversion of the Jews is expressed. The Jews on the other hand, do not dream that the purpose of dialogue with the Church should be to convince the Catholics to change their faith.[29]

Rabbi Di Segni was quick to recognize that the new formulation of the prayer did not allow for a continuation of the Christian-Jewish dialogue. In a communiqué of 4 April 2008 the Press room of the Vatican recalled the objections raised by the Jews according to which the new prayer “would not be in harmony with the declarations and official statements of the Holy See, concerning the Jewish people and its faith, that marked a progress in the friendly relations between the Jews and the Catholic Church in the last forty years.”[30] The Holy See answered that no change was envisaged in the stand developed by the Church toward the Jews, especially in the declaration Nostra Aetate. The Church denies all attitudes that despise or discriminate against Jews, and repudiates firmly any form of anti-Semitism.

The Revocation of the Excommunication of the Four Lefebvrians

Such was the status of relations between the Vatican and the Jews, when a new storm broke out on 21 January 2009: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, revoked the excommunication of the four Lefebvrian bishops headed by Mgr Bernard Fellay, general superior of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X.[31] What could be regarded as an internal Church matter became a matter of worldwide interest when one of the four Bishops, Richard Williamson, gave an interview on Swedish Television, broadcast on 22 January 2009, in which he denied the Shoah. Williamson said: “I believe that 200,000 up to 300,000 Jews did die in the concentration camps, but not one in the gas chambers.”[32]

On 27 January the Fraternity of Saint Pius X claimed to have no authority on such questions. It added that the declarations of Williamson “do not reflect, in any case, the position of our Fraternity.”[33] Shoah denial has been indirectly condemned by the Church – for example in its document “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah” (1998).[34] Thus it is strange that the Vatican did not ask Williamson to retract his remarks.

In revoking the excommunication of these four Bishops who so vehemently criticized Council Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI seems not only to have taken a step backwards in respect of this Council, but to condone Shoah denial. The incident sparked a global uproar. Nobel Prize laureate Eli Wiesel accused Benedict XVI of giving credence to “the most vulgar aspect of anti-Semitism” by rehabilitating a Shoah-denying bishop.[35] During the weeks following many condemnatory declarations were issued by Episcopal Conferences (in Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland), Cardinals, and by the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. Just over a week after the Pope formally rehabilitated the British-born Bishop Williamson, Merkel made the extraordinary decision to wade into a worsening row between the Vatican and worldwide Jewish and Catholic leaders. She accused the pontiff of giving the impression that Shoah denial was “permissible” through his decision to pardon Williamson.[36] Merkel added that she “does not believe” there has been adequate clarification of the Vatican`s position on the Holocaust. The Vatican must clarify that it cannot tolerate any negationism [of the Shoah].[37]

At last, on 4 February 2009 the Secretariat of State of the Holy See intervened with an official statement on three points. The first point explained that the Pope wanted to eliminate an obstacle to dialogue with the four Bishops, and it stresses that the four actually do not have the charge of Bishops in the Church. In the second point, the Secretary of State, noted that full recognition of the Council Vatican II is an indispensable condition for the future recognition of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X. The third point deals with the Shoah, saying that:

“The positions of Bishop Williamson with regard to the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked on 28 January 2009 when, with reference to the heinous genocide, he reiterated his full and unquestionable solidarity with our brothers and sisters who received the First Covenant, and he affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead “humanity to reflect upon the unfathomable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man,” adding that the Shoahremains “a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all.”

In order to be admitted to function as a Bishop within the Church, Bishop Williamson must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication.[38]

In this text, the Secretariat of State did not demand that Bishop Williamson immediately retract his negationist declarations. “Distance” from his positions would only be necessary if and when he will apply to be recognized as a Bishop by the Catholic Church. At first, the excommunication of the four Bishops was not connected to their views on the Shoah. However, Williamson’s negationist views did cause an uproar in public opinion, a fact well understood by the Vatican. This is evidenced by the fact that in the official statement by the Secretariat of State Williamson’s stand is considered “unacceptable,” the Shoah remains a “warning against denial” and it is stressed that his positions were “unknown to the Holy Father,” hinting that had the Pope been aware of them previously he may have acted differently.

The Superior General of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay said, in an interview to the French Catholic weekly Famille Chretiennethat “the Jews are our elder brothers.” He added, “we condemn a crime against an innocent [man], especially when it is addressed to an entire people. We reject any accusation of anti-Semitism, and any approval of what happened under Hitler, as something abominable.”[39]

Yet the opinions of Bishop Williamson did not prevent him from being reincorporated into the Church, and he was not required to change his views. The only impediment resulting from these negationist declarations is that Williamson will not be reinstalled in his charge as Bishop unless he were to retract his declarations. The Church has no problem readmitting into its midst clergymen with such clearly stated opinions. Until now, some months after the revocation of their excommunication, Williamson has not retracted one single word and remains inside the Church with an illegitimate charge of bishop.

On 10 March 2009, Pope Benedict XVI took a very unusual and courageous step and sent a personal letter to the Bishops of the world to explain his own deeds, and even his mistakes:

“Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment.”

The Williamson case was “an unforeseen mishap” which suddenly appeared “as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christian and Jews.” And this “momentarily upset peace between Christian and Jews, as well as peace within the Church.” The Pope added that

“I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which – as in the days of Pope John Paul II – has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.”

In this letter, the Pope went on to explain that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church and “its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.” On the other hand “those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Council Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church.” The Pope thinks that in our days “the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel” and that “the real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon.”

The last sentence recalls what Benedict XVI asked at Auschwitz: “Why, Lord, did you remain silent?”[40] The presence of God in contemporary society is one of the issues dealt with by Benedict XVI. The purpose of the dialogue with the Jews, as well as that with Islam, was explained by the Pope in this letter to the Bishops, as “the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism is part of the supreme priority.”[41]

The Pope justified with a quantitative argument the remission of the four Bishops’ excommunication: “Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, six seminaries, 88 schools, two university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful?”[42]

This letter put an end to the grave incident that had occurred. Nobody in the Curia had taken into consideration the possible repercussions for dialogue with the Jews of a papal step which seemed to legalize Shoah denial and the general uproar of world public opinion. Nor did anyone in the Curia act to investigate the four bishops before reaccepting them, and the Pope himself was not informed about the declarations of Williamson. It is hard to believe that nobody in the Curia consulted the internet. Was this a question of mismanagement, lack of coordination, or more probably a lack of real interest in the repercussions of such a step?

Benedict XVI and the Jews

One of the harshest Jewish reactions to Williamson’s Shoah denial came from Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee:

“What has been revealed most dramatically by this episode is something that Vatican observers have been noting consistently during this papacy in contrast to the previous pontificate: an amazing lack of consideration of the ramification of papal actions, and a profound lack of collegial consultation.[43]”

Benedict visited a synagogue in Germany and one in the U.S.,[44] thus showing his personal interest in good relations with the Jews. No less important was his correction of his own speech made at Auschwitz on 28 May 2006, in which he said, quoting his predecessor John Paul II, that “six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation.”[45] Some days later, back at the Vatican, Benedict XVI corrected himself and said that “Hitler had more than six million Jews exterminated in the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau and in other similar camps.”[46] Thus the symbolic number of victims, six million, was once more identified with the Jews. It is unusual for a Pope to correct himself, but it is a welcome move, for which he deserves esteem.

The Pope very much appreciated the quick arrival to the Vatican of a delegation of American Jewish organizations, which came at a moment when Benedict XVI was under the concentrated criticism of European Catholic clergy and secular leaders. Receiving the delegation on 12 February 2009, he recalled his previous visits to Park East Synagogue in New York, to the Synagogue in Cologne, and to the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau where he meditated “on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews” who went into captivity there and had “little to sustain them.” He did not pronounce the word “extermination” nor did he repeat his previous, somewhat outrageous, declaration that “by destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear out the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention.”[47] This idea suggests that the Jews were killed by the Nazis only to tear the Christian faith.

Benedict XVI also said to this delegation that he was preparing to visit Israel, “a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there.” While the visit to Israel was used as proof of his sympathy to Jews, not a word was mentioned about modern Israel or its value for the Jewish people. He recalled the prayer of his predecessor, John Paul II, who was “pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer.” But the text of the prayer put into the Wall in Jerusalem by John Paul II, did not recall the Jews but only the descendants of Abraham and the “genuine brotherhood,” with “the people of the Covenant,” who may also be the Christians.[48] Benedict XVI reaffirmed that the Shoah must be “a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism.”[49]

On 12 March 2009 Benedict XVI received at the Vatican the representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He reminded them that the dialogue with the Israeli Rabbinate was started by his predecessor when he received the two Chief Rabbis of Israel in January 2004. The Pope went on to say that friendship had increased between the The Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Rabbinate, and said that

“the Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family, knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God. Christians gladly acknowledge that their own roots are found in the same self-revelation of God, in which the religious experience of the Jewish people is nourished. [50]”

The Pope also expressed the hope that his visit may deepen the dialogue with the Jewish people “so that Jews and Christians and also Muslims may live in peace and harmony in this Holy Land.”[51]

Benedict XVI and the State of Israel

The Holy See is a political entity. Therefore, its relations with the state of Israel are of a political nature. A speech of Pope Benedict XVI wholly dedicated to this subject can help better understand the Holy See’s position toward the State of Israel. This speech was given on 12 May 2008 on the occasion of the presentation by Mr. Mordechay Lewy, the new Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, of his letters of accreditation. [52]

The Pope opened his speech by recalling the sixtieth anniversary of the State of Israel:

“The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians.”

After this cordial beginning, although linked to the Palestinians, the Pope gave a detailed description of the main problems still existing in the relations with Israel:

a) The Pope implicitly made Israel responsible for the “the alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration.” This accusation is not corroborated by facts. On the contrary, inside Israel proper the size of the Christian population is steady and not diminishing. There is a strong migration of Christians from the territories of the Palestinian Authority because the Muslim majority there leaves them no alternative. Moreover they are generally skilled people, who, having completed their studies, can go abroad to other countries and find a suitable career far away from Muslim pressures.

b) The Pope recognized the right of Israel for self-defense but only sees hardship suffered by the Palestinian population. Not a word was pronounced concerning Arab terrorism or the missiles and rockets launched for years on the Israeli civil population. The Pope supported the solution of “two independent sovereign states side by side” but he gave the impression that the implementation of such a solution depends on Israel’s goodwill alone.

c) The Pope mentioned the “negotiations regarding economic and fiscal affairs” which have not yet been concluded after more than 10 years, since the signature of the Fundamental Agreement in 1993. He also expressed hopes that the agreements signed with the Holy See “may soon be integrated into the Israeli internal legal system.” It is evident that without such integration, those agreements are worthless.

d) The Pope also raised the “question of visas for church personnel,” a rather complicated issue since the Church wants to bring priests from Arab countries into Israel.[53] Since many of those countries are officially at war with Israel, the arrival of their citizens may be conditioned on a security check.

In conclusion, far from diplomatic niceties, the Pope exploited this occasion to make the above mentioned list of complaints.

More on the Policy toward Israel

According to Sandro Magister, an expert Vaticanist of the Italian weekly L`Espresso, in more than three years of his pontificate, Benedict XVI has changed little or nothing in Vatican policy toward Israel. The only change is in tone: Tarcisio Bertone, as Secretary of State, has softened his tone and Giovanni Maria Vian, the new director of the daily Osservatore Romano, “has stopped launching invective and has made more room for religious and cultural debate. But the general policy has remained the same.”[54]

The authorities of the Church, and Benedict XVI himself, raised their voices in condemnation of “the massive violence that has broken out in the Gaza Strip in response to other violence” only after Israel began bombing the installations of the terrorist movement Hamas in that territory. They did not make any condemnations prior to this, when Hamas was massacring the Muslims faithful to President Abu Mazen, humiliating the tiny Christian communities, and launching rockets every day against Israelis civilians in the surrounding area.

The Vatican authorities have never raised their voice against Hamas and its desire to destroy the State of Israel, its role favoring Iran’s expansionist policy, nor its links with Hizbullah which were recently revealed by Egypt. Magister writes that the Vatican officials “have never shown that they see Hamas as a deadly danger to Israel and an obstacle to the birth of a Palestinian state, in addition to its being a nightmare for the Arab regimes in the area, from Egypt to Jordan to Saudi Arabia.”[55]

Benedict XVI’s pronounced statements on the conflict in Gaza, at the Angelus – a short practice of devotion in honor of the Incarnation repeated three times each day, morning, noon, and evening, at the sound of the bell[56] – on 28 December at the end of the homily on 1 January, and again at the Angelus on 4 January. On 1 January 2009 he said that “it will not be impossible to listen to one another, to come to one another’s help and to give concrete responses to the widespread aspiration to live in peace, safety and dignity.”[57] Benedict XVI has also made several general appeals for an end to the violence in Gaza, but has not openly criticized Israel. In his message to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps on 8 January 2009 Benedict XVI said, regarding Gaza:

“This situation further complicates the quest for a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, something fervently desired by many of them and by the whole world. Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. I express my hope that, with the decisive commitment of the international community, the ceasefire in the Gaza strip will be re-established.[58]”

No one in the Vatican has ever protested against the firing of Palestinian rockets from the Gaza strip onto the Israeli civilian population.

On other occasions the stand taken by the Vatican has been even less friendly to Israel. Cardinal Renato Martino, Chairman of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and former permanent observer of the Vatican to the United Nations, said on 7 January 2009 that “defenseless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.”[59]

During the whole duration of his charge (1987-2008), the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbagh, repeatedly spoke against the State of Israel.[60] His successor, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, follows Sabagh’s track. In a recent interview he said:

“Today the Calvary is a war that goes on for 60 years, the military occupation, the lack of jobs, and the economic recession. Today one builds walls without caring if in so doing they close us inside. In this Land we do not need walls but dialogue…. In Gaza they did one more war, but what are the results? Nothing. If you seed the occupation, you harvest the resistance. The occupation must come to an end…. Now is the time for denunciation, for raising our voice. The next visit of the Pope will encourage the Christian communities; they must understand that they must resist the temptation to go away.[61]”

Another cause of dispute was the stand taken by the Holy See at the UN Conference, the Review Conference of the Durban Declaration of 2001 Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance beginning on 20 April 2009 in Geneva. On Sunday, 19 April the Pope spoke from his balcony on Saint Peter’s Square giving his full support to the Geneva Conference “to put an end to every form of racism.”[62]

This was not the first time that the Vatican had collaborated with Iran in the international arena. In September 1994, a UN Conference on Demography was held in Cairo, Egypt. Before the beginning of the Conference a special Vatican delegation went to Iran and Libya to coordinate a common stand. It appears that the positions of the Vatican, Iran, and Libya were very similar. A few months before the conference, John Paul II dedicated a speech to this subject. He condemned “immoral means” of family planning, especially abortions, and stressed that the use of contraceptives is ethically inadmissible.[63] More recently, Benedict XVI had intense contacts with the Iranian authorities. As an example we recall that the Foreign Minister of Iran, Kamal Kharrazi, had a private meeting with the Pope on 13 February 2004 after some Catholic schools had been expropriated.[64] Another Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, brought a letter from President Ahmadinejad to the Pope on 27 December 2006 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Iran.[65] On 5 April 2007 the Pope received the former Iranian President Seyyed Mohammed Khatami and shared with him a “serene dialogue between cultures”.[66]

The Visit of Benedict XVI to Israel

It seems that Benedict XVI greatly desired to visit Israel and that his will prevailed over contradictory considerations in the Curia. Father Lombardi, spokesman of the Vatican, said in an interview:

“I have found a proof of courage and hope in the will of the Pope to go [to the Holy Land] anyway. The decision is to go, in this context, even after there has been the war of Gaza, when many asked whether the visit would not be postponed. The Pope wanted to reconfirm it, not to show indifference to a situation of tragedy and grave suffering, but always as a token of hope.[67]”

From the Israeli point of view the visit was a positive event, since it showed that it is feasible to visit Israel notwithstanding the previous hostilities in the Gaza strip. It was also a demonstration of friendship and the Pope’s presence itself would reinforce the position of Israel in the eyes of millions of Catholics in the world.

If most Israelis welcomed the Pope’s visit, there were also some rare opponents expressing controversial views. Professor Hillel Weiss of Bar-Ilan University considered the Pope an “unwanted guest.” According to Weiss, the status of the Pope in Israel has reached that aspired to by the Catholic Church: a return to the role of an international political factor. “The Pope is the chosen Trojan horse that through him not only the Vatican but all the army of Gog and Magog, and first of all the United States, try to impose the policy of the holy basin [in Jerusalem] according to the vision of Beilin, Peres and Olmert.”[68]

On 8 May 2009 Pope Benedict XVI arrived on an official visit to Jordan and between 11 and 15 May he visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Vatican authorities avoid calling the State of Israel by its name and they prefer to use the denomination Holy Land.[69] Thus they give the land a holy connotation, a sense of belonging to the Holy See, and try to avoid Palestinian criticism of an official visit to Israel.

Speaking at Ben-Gurion airport on his arrival, the Pope raised the subject of the Shoah,

“I will have the opportunity to honor the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah. Anti-Semitism…is totally unacceptable…. I plead to explore every possible avenue…so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders.”

At Yad Vashem the Pope gave a Biblical lesson about the importance of the name of every victim, perhaps inspired by the name of the institution, which in Hebrew means “the memorial to all the names.” Yet Avner Shalev, Director of Yad Vashem, had expected the Pope to issue a stronger condemnation of Nazis and Germany. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and a Shoah survivor himself, noted that “there is a dramatic difference between killed and murdered.”

Rabbi Lau also compared Benedict XVI and John Paul II. In John Paul II’s speech at Yad Vashem 2000 he had blamed the Shoah on a “neo-pagan regime” in the hope of shaking off all Christian responsibility for the horrors that took place during the Second World War. Benedict XVI followed in his predecessor’s footsteps; he is willing to turn the Church into the victim alongside the Jews, if necessary, in an effort to clear the Church of the heavy responsibility it must carry for the complete silence of Pius XII during the war. In his silence, the Pope had betrayed his role as moral guide to his own believers and left the Jews to meet their fate at the hands of the Nazis without any intervention on his part.

As Staf Misezhnikov, Israeli Minister of Tourism, noted, the Israeli government considered the Pope’s visit to be a powerful incentive for the development of religious tourism and pilgrimages – although the real impact of these pilgrims on the Israeli economy has not been fully researched. Catholic pilgrims use Arab guides, visit Yad Vashem with young Italian students who are unaware of the Jewish suffering during the Shoah, [70] ride on Arab buses, and stay overnight in Catholic religious homes or Arab hotels. Their real contribution to the Israeli economy is therefore modest or doubtful at best.

Likewise, it is important to remember that the political stand of the Holy See on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is almost the same negative attitude toward Israel that has existed from the very beginning of the State of Israel in 1948.

As far as can be ascertained from Israeli media coverage of Benedict XVI’s visit, the Israeli side did not give the Pope a comprehensive tour d’horizon on the politics of the Middle East. Such a tour should have emphasized that the only guarantee for the continued survival of the Christian communities in the Middle East is a strong Israel, since a strong Israel is a deterrent against fundamentalist Islamic movements who are far from being friendly to local Christian populations and would like to subvert moderate Arab states.

This fact is not understood even by the priest who inspired Benedict XVI’s policy toward fundamentalist Islam, Samir Khouri Samir. The Holy See views the Arabs as victims and the Israelis as oppressors. Islamist terrorism can be traced back to this basic cause, as Cardinal Renato Martino, Chairman of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said in an interview to the Osservatore Romano on 1 January 2009:

“Many problems that are now attributed almost exclusively to cultural and religious differences have their origin in countless economic and social injustices. This is also true in the complex history of the Palestinian people. In the Gaza Strip, human dignity has been trampled on for decades; hatred and murderous fundamentalism are nourished.”

Not a word was mentioned about Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in summer 2005 or Hamas’ forceful seizure of power there in June 2007.

It was clear from the Pope’s speeches in Bethlehem and its surroundings that the Holy See’s attitude to the State of Israel remains unchanged. He acknowledged the suffering of the Palestinians, the families left homeless, and offered his solidarity to “the people who have suffered so much.” The Pope told President Mahmud Abbas, that “the Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally guaranteed borders.”[71]

After expressing clear support for the Palestinian state, the Pope added that “Palestinians like any other people, have a natural right to marry, to raise families, and to have access to work, education and health care,” hinting that the Israelis are not allowing poor Palestinians to marry and to have access to work, education, and medical care. Rather, the contrary is true. Hamas obliged the industrial area of Erez to close down after shelling it with mortar bombs causing five thousand Palestinian workers to stay at home without work. Education is given by UNRWA, but the Hamas encourage the young graduates to enroll in its armed militia instead of working in a regular job. When the Pope departed from the Ben-Gurion airport Israeli representatives could have objected to the political expressions of the Pope, but Israelis preferred not to react at all.

The Pope did not condemn Palestinian terrorism but launched an appeal to young people: “Have the courage to resist any temptation you may feel to resort to acts of violence or terrorism.”[72] His words “temptation for terrorism” again hinted at the Vatican’s claim that Israeli violence provokes Palestinian terrorism, while the truth is exactly the opposite.

Benedict XVI attacked the separation wall saying that “it is tragic to see that even today walls are erected” and later added that “walls can be brought down,” a clear incitation to violence. Moreover he again resorted to theology when he said that “I have seen with anguish the situation of the refugees who like the Holy Family were obliged to leave their houses,” which recalls the Gospel of Matthew (2,13): “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt…. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” This comment could be taken as a comparison of the Israelis to Herod. This is similar to the actions of John Paul II, during his visit to Israel in 2000 – he presented Yasser Arafat with 14 shells representing the 14 stations of the Way of the Cross, explaining that they symbolize the Passion of the Palestinians, which can be compared to the suffering endured by Jesus.[73]

French author Shmuel Trigano noted that “to the Jews goes the recognition of the martyrs of the Shoah, while to the Palestinians goes the political recognition, or even a political-theological [recognition].” [74]

The only “incident” to occur in the five day long visit was during a session of the “Trialogue,” an interfaith meeting at Notre Dame Hotel in Jerusalem. Sheik Tayseer Tamimi, a leading Palestinian Muslim cleric, took the liberty of speaking and shouting recriminations against the State of Israel. The Pope waited until the end of Tamimi’s speech and then left the hall.[75] Nobody responded to Tamimi. This is one more example of what can be expected from such a “Trialogue.” The situation is complex enough without the further complications of such useless exercises which always end in vituperation of Israel. Whether Christians are willing to enter such trialogue negotiations or not, Jews should avoid them, since they result in an alliance of the representatives of the other two religions against the Jews, as has been pointed out already in the past by this author. [76]


Notwithstanding the various meetings with Jewish groups, and the explanations he received, the Pope not did not retract any of his previous declarations and decisions. He deepened the political gap with Israel in his public speech on Durban-2. The question now is whether a Catholic Church which is becoming more traditionalist, more distant from Council Vatican II, and therefore from Nostra Aetate, will be able to maintain or improve its relations with the Jews. Moreover, if the content of the Jewish-Catholic dialogue according to the Church consists of trying to convert the Jews, it will remain an exercise in futility. The visit of Benedict XVI could have bettered the relations between the Vatican and Israel, but was biased by a pro-Palestinian stand. Vatican policy may bring the Jewish-Catholic dialogue to an insurmountable impasse.

*     *     * 


[1]. The Latin “postulator” refers, within the Roman Catholic Church, to someone who proposes or pleads on behalf of a candidate for beatification or canonization.

[2]. Ed West, “Pope Benedict Defends Role of Wartime Pontiff,” 26 September 2008, Catholic Herald,

[3]. On 8-9 March 2009, Yad Vashem organized a symposium in Jerusalem in which this author delivered a paper based on a previous essay. See  “Pio XII, il Vaticano e il Sabato nero” [Pius XII, the Vatican and the Black Saturday], Nuova Storia Contemporanea, VI/3, Maggio-Giugno 2002 [Italian].

[4]. The relevant paragraph in Nostra Aetate states: “True, authorities of the Jews and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still what happened in His passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today.” See: Declaration Nostra AetateFifteen Years of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue 19701985 (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1988), 291.

[5]. Chaim Cohn, Processo e morte di Gesú, un punto di vista ebraico [The trial and death of Jesus, a Jewish point of view] (Torino: Einaudi, 2000)] Italian]. Unless otherwise stated, all translations are by Nourit Melcer Padon.



[8]. Jean Paul II, Maximilian Kolbe: Patron de notre siècle difficile [Maxumilien Kolbe, patron of our difficult century] (Lethielleux: Paris, 1971), 34-35 [French].

[9]. Pope John Paul II, “Omelia di Giovanni Paolo II al Campo di Concentramento di Brzezinka,” [Homily of John Paul II at the concentration camp of Birkenau], 7 June 1979, [Italian]. My translation.

[10]. Raphaёl Draï, Lettre Ouverte au Cardinal LustigerSur l`autre revisionnisme [Open Letter to Cardinal Lustiger on the Other Revisionism] (Aix-en-Provence: Alinea, 1989), 82 [French].

[11]. “Omelia di Brzezinka,” as in note 9.

[12]. Micheline Weinstock and Nathan Weinstock, eds, Pourquoi le carmel d’Auschwitz [Why the convent at Auschwitz] (Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1990) [French]; Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski, The Convent at Auschwitz (George Braziller: New York, 1991).

[13]. Homily for the beatification of Edith Stein, Cologne, 1 May 1987, La Traccia, Giugno 1987, 532-535 [Italian].

[14]. Many inside the Church think that this was a step toward burying Council Vatican II. See the important article by Don Paolo Farinella, “Benedetto Restauratore” [Benedict the Restorator], Micromega 163/188, no. 5 (September 2007): 164 ]Italian].

[15]. I thank Mr. Dario Bazec for his comment.

[16]. Farinella, “Benedetto Restauratore.”

[17]. Sergio I. Minerbi, The Visit of the Pope to the Holy Land (Foreign Office: Jerusalem, 2000).

[18]. Sergio I. Minerbi, “The Passion by Mel Gibson: Enthusiastic Response in the Catholic World, Restrained Criticism by the Jews,” Jewish Political Studies Review 17:1 (Spring 2005), 119-133.

[19]. Spiegel online, “Courting Radio Race-Hate: Jewish Groups Criticize Pope’s Meeting With ‘Anti-Semitic’ Priest,” 9 August 2007,,1518,499091,00.html.


[21]. Alberto Melloni, “Et Pro Iudaeis, Il discusso Oremus di Benedetto XVI” [In favour of Jews, the discussed prayer by Benedict XVI], Concilium(2008): 4 [Latin].

[22]. The English translation of the prayer is “We pray for the Jews/That our God and Lord enlighten their hearts/so that they recognize Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind/Graciously grant that by the entry/of the abundance of all people into your Church/Israel will be saved/through Christ our Lord. Boston College, Reformulated Tridentine Rite Prayer for Jews,

[23]. Cardinal Kasper is President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and a Member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

[24]. This view is held by several prominent Catholics. Raphaël Draï wrote about late Cardinal Lustiger, that “the fulfillment of Jewish existence and the accomplishment of Jewish vocation can be found in the conversion to Christianity and particularly to the Catholic religion,” Lettre ouverte au Cardinal Lustiger, 90. Pope John Paul II wrote about Edith Stein that “in the extermination camp she died as a daughter of Israel ‘for the glorification of the holy name of God,’ and at the same time as Sister Teresa Benedetta della Croce.” She was “a great Jewess and a Christian martyr.” Homily for the beatification of Edith Stein, 532-535. Moreover Carmelite monk, brother Daniel Rufeisen, requested to be recognized as a Jew but the Israeli High Court of Justice in 1962 decided that any Jew converting to another religion would lose his preferential access to Israeli citizenship.

[25]. Festa della conversione di San Paolo e conclusione della settimana di preghiera per l’unità dei Cristiani, Benedetto XVI,  AngelusPiazza San Pietro, Sunday 25 January 2009 [Italian].

[26]. Ratzinger, La Chiesa, Israele e le religioni del mondo [The Church, Israel and the religions on the world] (San Paolo: 2000), 73 [Italian].

[27]. Declaration “Dominus Iesus” on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, paragraph 2,

[28]. Ibid., paragraph 22.

[29]. Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, “La preghiera per gli ebrei,” Shalom, Marzo 2008; also see [Italian].

[30]. Melloni, “Et Pro Iudaeis, Il discusso Oremus di Benedetto XVI.”

[31]. In June 1988 Bishop Marcel Lefebvre had appointed the four Bishops without the previous authorization of the Catholic Church and therefore they were excommunicated. See La Documentation Catholique, n.2419, 1 March 2009, 235 [French].

[32]. Williamson’s interview was broadcast on 22 January 2009 by the Swedish chain SVT, and on the Internet.

[33]. Communiqué of Msg Bernard Fellay, Superior of the Fraternity, of 27 January 2009, La Documentation Catholique, 1 March 2009, 249 [French].


[35]. Philip Pullella, “Eli Wiesel Attacks Pope over Holocaust Bishop,” 28 January 2009,

[36]. Tony Paterson, “Merkel Attacks Pope for Holocaust-Denier’s Pardon,” The Independent, 4 February 2009.

[37]. “Vescovo negazionista, la Merkel attacca:”`il Papa chiarisca` [Negationist Bishop, Merkel attacks: “The Pope should clarify”), Corriere della Sera, 3 February 2009, [Italian].

[38]. Note from the Secretariat of State concerning the four prelates of the Society of Saint Pius X, From the Vatican, 4 February 2009,

[39]. “Fellay: gli ebrei sono i nostri fratelli maggiori” [Fellay: the Jews are our elder brothers] Avvenire, 3 February 2009, 19 [Italian].

[40]. Pastoral Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Poland, Address by the Holy Father, Visit to the Auschwitz Camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, 28 May 2006,


[41]. Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remission of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre,

[42]. Ibid.

[43].”Is Pope Benedict Good for the Jews?” JTA, 17 February 2009. This article includes some mistakes, for instance, it is not true that the Vatican “ordered Williamson to recant his remarks on the Holocaust.”

[44]. Benedict XVI visited the Synagogue in Cologne on 19 August 2005, and the Park East Synagogue in New York on 18 April 2008.

[45]. Visit to the Auschwitz Camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau28 May 2006.

[46]. BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, 31 May 2006Apostolic Journey to Poland,

[47]. Benedict XVI, Visit to the Auschwitz Camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau28 May 2006.

[48]. Sergio I. Minerbi, The Visit of the Pope to the Holy Land.

[49]. Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Members of the Delegation of the “Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,” Consistory Hall, 12 February 2009,



[50]. Benedict XVI said at the beginning: “Working together you have become increasingly aware of the common values which stand at the basis of our respective religious traditions, studying them during the seven meetings held either here in Rome or in Jerusalem. You have reflected on the sanctity of life, family values, social justice and ethical conduct, the importance of the word of God expressed in Holy Scriptures for society and education, the relationship between religious and civil authority and the freedom of religion and conscience. In the common declarations released after every meeting, the views which are rooted in both our respective religious convictions have been highlighted, while the differences of understanding have also been acknowledged. The Church recognizes that the beginnings of her faith are found in the historical divine intervention in the life of the Jewish people and that here our unique relationship has its foundation.”

[51] “Pope Benedict Meets with Israeli Rabbis,” 12 March 2009,

[52] Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to His Excellency Mr. Mordechai Lewy Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, Monday, 12 May 2008,


[53]., a Catholic bulletin, wrote “meanwhile scores of priests and men and women religious were reduced to the status of “illegal aliens,” several were stopped in the street by immigration police, and none could risk leaving the country for whatever reason, for fear they might not allowed back in.” See Arieh Cohen, “Netanyahu, Peace Problems and the Pope’s Visit,” 31 March 2009.

[54]. Sandro Magister, “In Gaza, the Vatican Raises the White Flag,” 4 January 2009,

[55]. Ibid.

[56]. Catholic Encyclopedia,

[57]. Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 42nd World Day of Peace, Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI, St Peter’s Basilica, 1 January 2009.

52. The Pope continued, “an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population and that negotiations for peace will resume, with the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms.”

[58]. Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Sala Regia, 8 January 2009,



[59]. Reuters, “Vatican Cardinal Calls Gaza ‘Big Concentration Camp’,” 7 January 2009,

[60]. See Sergio Minerbi, “Christian Palestinians Inflame a Religious Dispute,” Kiwunim Hadashim 8 (April 2003): 70-82.

[61]. See note 33.

[62]. Benedict XVI said: “Firm and concrete action is required at a national and international level, to prevent and eliminate every form of discrimination and intolerance. Above all, an extensive educational effort is needed, which exalts the dignity of the person and safeguards his fundamental rights. The Church, for her part, reaffirms that only the acknowledgement of human dignity created in the image and likeness of God, can constitute a reliable reference point for such a task. From this common origin, in fact, stems a common destiny of humanity that should inspire in one and all a strong sense of solidarity and responsibility. I express my sincere wishes that the Delegates present at the Geneva Conference will work together, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual acceptance, to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance, thereby marking a fundamental step toward the affirmation of the universal value of human dignity and rights, in a horizon of respect and justice for every person and nation.” Benedetto XVI, Regina Caeli,  Castel Gandolfo, Domenica della Divina Misericordia, 19 April 2009,

[63]. John Paul II, Angelus, 24 July 1994 (my translation).

[64]., Zenit, 9 September 2004.

[65]., USA Today, 27 December 2006.

[66].,, 5 April 2007.

[67]. “Intervista a Padre Lombardi” [Interview with Father Lombardi], Shalom, May 2009. Rumors spread in Rome attributing the advice to the Pope not to come to Israel to Nuncio Pietro Sambi and former Secretary of State Sodano.

[68]. “The Professor of Bar-Ilan: The Pope is Unwanted,” Walla News, 5 April 2009, [Hebrew].

[69]. Pellegrinaggio di Sua Santita` Benedetto XVI in Terra Santa [Pilgrimage of His Holiness Benedict XVI in the Holy Land], (8-15 May 2009) – Avviso N.1 – 26 March 2009.

[70]. A few months ago on a visit to the museum at the same time as a group of Italian pilgrims, this author witnessed the poor preparation of the young Italian guide.

[71]. James Hider, “Pope Benedict XVI Calls for Palestinian State on Visit to Refugee Camp,” The Times, 14 May 2009.

[72]. Benedict XVI’s speech in Bethlehem on 13 May 2009, in Osservatore Romano, “Un onesto dialogo per il diritto a una sovrana patria palestinese” [A honest dialogue for the right to a sovereign Palestinian fatherland],  14 May 2009 [Italian].

[73]. Minerbi, The Visit of the Pope to the Holy Land, 5.

[74]. Shmuel Trigano, “La nouvelle politique du Vatican” [The new policy of the Vatican], 17 May 2009, [French]. I thank Dr. Joel Fishman for this source.

[75]. Matthew Wagner, “Sheikh Tamimi Attacks Israel, Pope Walks Out,” The Jerusalem Post, 11 May 2009.

[76]. Sergio Minerbi, “Adif du siah yehudi-muslemi al tlat-siah yehudi-nozri-muslemi” [A Jewish-Muslim dialogue is preferable to a triangular Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue], Kiwunim Hadashim 14, (June 2006) [Hebrew].

*     *     *

DR. SERGIO ITZHAK MINERBI was Ambassador of Israel to the Ivory Coast and to the EEC, Belgium and Luxembourg. He has been Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Visiting Professor at the Haifa University. He has published a dozen books, among them The Vatican and Zionism (Oxford University Press, 1990).