Monday, January 18, 2010

Pope Benedict with the Grand Rabbi at the Synagogue of Rome

There is no way I can begin to do justice to this event tonight, or on any night for that matter. Even to attempt this, I would need to study the text of the Holy Father's speech first. Unfortunately the Vatican website hasn't published any texts of Papal speeches so far this year - not in any language. It really isn't good enough. We are more than half way through January and you'd think from the Vatiican Site that Benedict hasn't said anything since December 31st last year. Nevertheless I watched the Synagogue event on kto and understood the French translation as it happened. Here, I can only share one or two impressions.

First it was a much warmer occasion than I'd feared it might be. Before entering the Synagogue our Holy Father was greeted most generously and enthusiastically. Once he entered the Synagogue, the assembly rose to him, as they did at the end of his speech, which was the last in a series of four, the first three being given by diffferent and eminent Rabbis. Actually the major part of the Holy Father's address was a homily on the Decalogue, but given so gently and humbly as to be unnoticed as such by the majority of his hearers, or perhaps not...........?

Tonight, I'll deal with the one thing that worries and grieves us, namely how Pope Benedict's clearing the way for the Beatification of Pope Pius XII would affect Jewish-Catholic relations. As it happened, there were only two veiled references to this matter, and they were buried in the speeches of the Grand Rabbi (I think) and of Pope Benedict in response. The Rabbi mourned the silence of Pope Pius in regard to the Shoah, referring to it as a dolorous omission and then he yet again pleaded for the Vatican to release its archives covering the period. As I say, these were two sentences buried in his text. In response, the Holy Father only said in veiled reference to his predessessor of that period: "The Holy See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way." Clearly he believes and knows that had Pius behaved in the way some think he should have done, the situation of the Jews would have been even worse. As it was Pius himself was nearly arrested and carried off by Hitler's forces. He actually left instructions as to what the rest of the Hierarchy were to do in such a circumstance.

These two references by the Rabbi and Benedict XVI, highlight the essential argument. On the one hand you have Jew, and Gentile, myself among this group, who have proof that Pius XII would not have been able to do any good at all, had he been more openly vociferous against the Nazi regime. As it was he was able to do a great deal. We do not need to go into the Vatican Archive to prove that. It is already in the public domain. On the other hand, you have both Jew and Gentile who insist that Pope Pius should have spoken out. I have yet to read a satisfactory explanation as to how a more vociferous Pius could have improved the situation for anyone, let alone the Jews..

Personally I think Pope Benedict and the Grand Rabbi well know what they are doing., thank God. The latter is known to respect Pope Benedict's scholarship and willingness to acknowledge differences, rather than indulge in a cosy yet sterile 'ecumenism' that blows nobody any good.

Well, that's it tonight for what it's worth and with so much left unsaid.. There is a new DVD available from the Vatican about Pope Pius and the Shoah. Tomorrow, I'll publish details of how you may buy this. And then DV, I'll confront the issue of the upcoming ad limina visit to the Pope by our English and Welsh bishops. My hair is already white and blood pressure healthy so please God I'll survive that exercise! (Probably our dear Holy Father thinks and prays similarly.)

In Christo pro Papa

No comments: