What hasn’t been said about Pope Benedict XVI in recent days. It seems as though one of Israel’s haters is arriving here – a former Nazi and a current-day Holocaust-denier and anti-Semite. There is something ungrateful about this welcome.
Many things can be said about Joseph Ratzinger, but I suggest that we let go of his “Nazi” past. He was made a member of the Hitler Youth at the age of 14, when membership was mandatory, and within a short period of time managed to get an exemption for religion reasons.
The pope is a conservative figure who is not amenable to changes in the Catholic Church. One can argue that his objection to the use of contraceptives is outrageous. We can also argue that he isn’t a great politician. The self-confessed clumsiness with which he handled the case of Holocaust-denier Richard Bishop is an example of his weaknesses when it comes to action.
However, there is one thing we must not say of him: Joseph Ratzinger is not anti-Semitic in any shape or form. He is an Israel lover. Throughout his time in Church, as all his Jewish interlocutors would testify, he was among the harshest condemners of anti-Semitism.
In his view, anti-Semitism is not only a sin against Jews, but rather, it is a sin against God.
Moreover, Ratzinger was the confidante of Pope John Paul II and his immense theological authority was a critical aspect in the previous pope’s moves. Ratzinger objected to the approach that espoused a negative attitude to the Jews and condemnation for the Jewish State; he was among the architects of the establishment of ties between the Vatican and the State of Israel.
John Paul and Ratzinger buried once and for all not only the accusation of murdering the messiah, but the entire theological theory that the Christians replaced the Jews and are now the chosen people and that the New Testament annuls the Old Testament. The Old Testament is still valid, declared the two, and the Jewish people is still God’s chosen and beloved people.
The current pope believes that Christianity owes a great religious debt to the Jewish people. He believes that the terrible deeds done to it must not only be regretted, but that responsibility must also be assumed for them. All of the above are not political moves, and certainly not cosmetic changes. This is a change in the Christian core really.
It is very doubtful whether John Paul II would have been able to undertake this revolution without the help and support of Joseph Ratzinger. In the long run, this revolution is significantly more important than the question of how many hours did the Vatican’s representative sit in the Durban II conference.
In the State of Israel, Benedict XVI deserved a warm welcome. Beneictus qui venit in nomine domini - Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.