JERUSALEM — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., provoked a hail of criticism from Catholics when he said Feb. 27 he was “very honored” to receive the endorsement of evangelical Protestant pastor John Hagee.

The Catholic League said in a Feb. 28 press release that Hagee for decades “has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ’ and a ‘false cult system.’”

The Catholic League provided a link to a video posted on YouTube of Hagee making inflammatory comments about the Church (youtube.comwatch?v=uVi Q0hVV57Q).

Register Correspondent Michele Chabin spoke last month with Hagee during his visit to the Holy Land about the pastor’s views regarding the Catholic Church.

Recent scholarship in the wake of worldwide Islamic insurgency suggest that the Crusades were mostly defensive wars. You have been critical of the Catholic Church for the Crusades. Have you moderated your views in this regard?

I am familiar with some of this scholarship, and interested in reading more. But I believe the gist of the argument is that the Crusades were defensive wars against Muslim armies, not unarmed Jewish villages. My criticism of the Crusades has been limited to the violence committed against the Jews.

Catholics — along with The New York Times — have tried very hard recently to correct the record on Pope Pius XII, regarding the claims by some that he failed to help Jews during the Nazi era. In light of all of this, do you truly consider him “Hitler’s Pope”?

All of the books I read on Pius XII and the Holocaust, such as Hitler’s Pope by John Cornwell, argued with great force and detail that Pope Pius XII had done little to help the Jews during the Holocaust.

But I’ve recently learned of another book called The Myth of Hitler’s Pope by a conservative rabbi named David Dalin. This book provides information not included in the prior works which shows that Pope Pius XII was more active in saving Jews than previously portrayed.

We can still debate whether the Pope could have done more. But it is now apparent that many Jews are alive today because of his efforts.

Why do you support John McCain for the presidency?

I would refer you to the statement I made upon endorsing him.

Does John McCain share your view that the New Testament, translated by the Church Fathers, is what inspired the Crusades, the Inquisition and ultimately produced the Holocaust?

Your question distorts my position. My point is that Christian anti-Semitism has led to violence against Jews throughout history. Yes, the Church Fathers made anti-Semitic statements. But so did many Protestant leaders, starting with Martin Luther himself.

I write as a Christian calling all of us — Protestant and Catholic alike — to recognize and repent of this hatred.

How do you reconcile your pro-Israel position, given the fact that the vast majority of Holy Land Christians are indigenous Palestinians?

I support Israel’s right to exist and to live in peace behind secure borders. This support does not ignore that fact that there are Christian communities throughout the West Bank. There is no contradiction between the existence of Israel and those Christian communities — their religious freedom is a matter of Israeli law and policy.

What would you tell Catholics troubled by your statements?

I would tell them that I am not anti-Catholic, that I deeply appreciate the contributions Catholics are making to this country and the world.

The fact is that I have made it my life’s work to root out anti-Semitism from the Christian world. Towards this end, I have criticized the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church. But I have also been emphatic in my praise of John Paul II and Benedict XVI for their efforts to eliminate this anti-Semitism.

And I have been equally critical of the anti-Semitism of Protestant churches and leaders going back to Martin Luther. These positions do not make me anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant — they simply make me a foe of anti-Semitism.

Michele Chabin is

based in Jerusalem.