The Vatican is evading questions on whether or not it is holding religious artifacts from the Second Temple, Rabbi Yonatan Shtenzel told Arutz Sheva correspondents Wednesday, in what he calls "diplomatic evasion."
Talmudic sources, including passages from Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Yossi, note that several of the holy vessels from the Second Temple ended up in the Vatican's hands, Rabbi Shtenzel said. Artifacts said to be transferred to the religious city-state via the Roman Emperor include the shulchan (Showbread table), the menorah (candelabra), several priestly garments, and others.
More than just an 1800 year-old report, there is recent evidence that the Vatican still has these vessels in its possession, he argued, citing the testimony of several 19th and twentieth century Rabbis.
Rabbi Shtenzel spoke at length about the personal experiences of Rabbi Israel Miller, a Satmar Hasid from Jerusalem who visited the Vatican and stated that he had seen several of the Temple vessels in person, and of former Religious Affairs Minister Professor Shimon Shitrit, who stated several years ago that Italian academics had contacted him about the vessels. The information later led to a diplomatic falling-out between the Religious Affairs Ministry and Pope John Paul II; yet the Vatican still remains quiet over the fate of the vessels.
Rabbi Shtenzel argues that the Israeli government is too passive in its handling of the issue of the vessels, choosing to smooth over relations instead of demanding answers on the objects which could spark the building of a Third Temple.
The Rabbi also turned to religious leaders, as well, noting that while meeting with the Pope - who, by traditional Jewish laws, represents an idolatrous sect - is problematic, the issue of the whereabouts of the Temple vessels is too urgent to overlook. He stated that if the Vatican continues to deny involvement with the Second Temple artifacts, Israel should turn to more meaningful channels to procure them.
Pope Francis knows full well where the vessels are, the Rabbi claimed, lamenting that "diplomatic evasion" is the status quo. The Vatican is concerned, according to Shtenzel, that they will be brought to the Hague over the issue and be forced to give the artifacts back to the Jewish people.