Part 2 of article
It is important to keep in mind the following: The Catholic Church is the largest, most well organized, and oldest religious body in the world. Most Christians around the world are Catholic, and the followers of the Church constitute one sixth of the world’s population. The pope is seen as Jesus’ emissary on earth.
However, the influence exercised by the Vatican and by the pope goes well beyond Catholic circles. The Church, which possesses vast financial resources and has its own educational and cultural institutions, holds immense political clout. When this is used negatively, the results are terrible.
Yet on top of the pope’s backward positions on a plethora of issues pertaining to human and individual rights, come his negative views towards other religions and faiths: Ranging from Buddhism and Hinduism to Islam and Judaism.
The pope’s most blatant decision in the Jewish context was no doubt the move to rehabilitate British Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson, previously excommunicated by the Church. The latter claimed, in a TV interview, that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to murder Jews during World War II. The pope was condemned from wall to wall and the crisis ended in an official reconciliation with rabbis two months ago: The pope denounced anti-Semitism and was forced to admit that rehabilitating the bishop was a “mistake.”
The case of the Holocaust-denying bishop adds up to a series of harsh decisions by the pope that aroused fears among Jewish communities across the world. First, the pope reinstituted an ancient Latin mass that includes a prayer for converting the Jews from “darkness to Catholicism.” Jewish organizations described this decision as a difficult blow to Jewish-Christian relations, yet the pope insisted.
A short while later, the pope permitted the more extensive use of the old text of the Good Friday Prayer, which includes a request from God to remove the veil from the hearts of the Jews. Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is among the prominent leaders of American Jewry, put it this way: “Pope Benedict XVI has taken a powerful step toward the re-introduction of the process of demeaning Jews. You cannot respect another religion if you teach that those who are part of it must convert to your own religion.”
As result of all of the above, and mostly because of the manner in which Benedict XVI exploits his position in order to sow division across the world, while remaining indifferent to the suffering caused by his decisions, we should not rejoice about his arrival.
MK Nitzan Horowitz is a Knesset member on behalf of Meretz