After a week in which Pope Benedict XVI visited the Great Synagogue of Rome and the Vatican and the Rabbinate of Israel held their regular annual meeting, Catholic-Jewish relations are looking considerably healthy – much more so than it might appear in some of the mass media.
As mentioned in an earlier post, whatever the controversies affecting the dialogue, relations usually continue much as they did before, largely thanks – as the Holy Father noted in his synagogue address – to advances in dialogue emanating from the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate.
Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department for Interreligious Affairs, called the Pope’s visit to Rome’s synagogue “a genuine milestone, putting many fears and suspicions to rest and reinvigorating the historic transformation of this relationship in our times.” He noted what he called a warm, impressive and festive atmosphere which he said was a “public expression of already well established friendships between Catholic and Jewish leadership present.”
Of course, the well trodden controversies over Pius XII, Richard Williamson and the Good Friday prayer of the Traditional Latin Mass have, rightly or wrongly, been of real concern to many Jews. Yet their real impact on dialogue is actually minor. During this week’s bilateral commission between the Vatican and Rabbinate of Israel – a meeting that included a number of very senior Judaic and Church leaders – the dispute over Pius was never raised. More important were the areas the two faiths hold in common.
“These controversies are important for the mass media, but not for our dialogue,” said Father Norbert Hoffman, the Secretary of the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with Judaism. ”We didn’t talk about the Pius matter at all during this [commission] meeting. Of course this issue exists but it doesn’t exist in the sense that the media think it would be on the table.” He added the final assessment of the delegation of the Chief Rabbinate was that the Pope’s visit to the synagogue was “very successful.”
Earlier this week, the French Jewish intellectual, Bernard-Henri Lévy, denounced what he said were media caricatures of Benedict XVI and Pius XII in their dealings with Jews, saying their words and deeds belied their media portrayals.
All of which further points to what many have long suspected: that certain individuals and groups, not only within the mass media but elsewhere, are sadly exaggerating and exploiting Catholic-Jewish differences to suit their own ends, whether it be to sell newspapers or, more seriously, for a variety of nefarious goals directed against the Church.