“How wonderful,” it took the Pope “only” a month of hesitation before he declared that one should not be denying the Holocaust, while ruling that British Bishop Richard Williamson should not be reinstated by the Catholic Church. This religious cleric, who belongs to the fanatic Society of St. Pius X, made a name for himself as a serial Holocaust denier and a declared anti-Semite.
Even though the bishop repeated his claim that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz in the days before he was pardoned by the Pope, after 20 years of excommunication, Benedict XVI saw no reason to annul the pardon. Only the protests led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Jewish communities of course, “convinced” the Pope to retract. “Bishop Williamson…will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah,” the Vatican said, as if this can erase Williamson’s words and actions.
Please allow me to go back to 1979 and recount my trip with then-Jewish Agency Chairman and World Zionist Organization President Aryeh Dolchin. We travelled to Vienna and Rome, and Dolchin had a meeting scheduled with Pope John Paul II. However, Dolchin called off the meeting after the Pope’s representatives informed him that he will only be received for a few minutes, between one official meeting and another while being led into the palace via a side entrance.
“I represent the Jewish people and my status is no lower than that of the head of the Catholic Church,” he told the Pope’s representatives.
And why am I mentioning the late Dolchin at this time? Because I never understood why we, the Jews, need a relationship with the Pope and his Church. After all, we never benefited in any way from these ties.
Anti-Semitism never ceasedLet’s examine the dry facts: Did Pius XII, the Pope who reigned during Hitler’s rule in Germany and Europe, ever speak out against the extermination of the Jews? Certainly not. He saw nothing, knew nothing, and said nothing. And what did the various Popes who succeeded him do? Did they order all priests to stop their incitement against the Jewish people? Did they forbid various religious clerics, such as Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp, to spread anti-Semitism? No.
Indeed, about 30 years ago, the Vatican issued a statement absolving Jews from Jesus’ crucifixion – almost 2,000 years after the fact – yet did any Church loyalist conduct himself in line with this declaration? We also had a Pope who made a historic first visit to a synagogue. What a brave step!
The anti-Semitism created, led, and disseminated by Christianity ever since it was established never ceased, and these days it again raises its head. So why do we need ties with the Pope? In any case, God’s representatives on earth, according to the Catholic Church, did nothing and will do nothing significant in order to curb anti-Semitism.
As a state, Israel must maintain its ties with the Vatican, as it is also officially a state. However, the Jews as a people can easily give up their relationship with the Pope and his Church, even if we miss out on a papal visit to some synagogue.