The Church and Israel: the Truth

Who killed Jesus two thousand years ago is simply not the question at hand. What is happening now is what matters.

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Giulio Meotti

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Pope Ratzinger, in a new book, exonerates the Jews of allegations they were responsible for Jesus Christ’s death.

Israel’s relationship with the largest Christian group is different from Israel’s relationship  with, say, Albaniaor Lesotho, because the Catholic Church has more than one billion adherents. In 1948, the Vatican described Zionism as a “new Nazism”. This was a forerunner of the infamous UN resolution – “Zionism is Racism”.

The repudiation of Israel after the Shoah is an everlasting stain on the Christian’s conscience. Since then, the Holy See took positive steps toward Israel, like the formal recognition in 1993. 

However, Ratzinger’s teaching on Christ sharply contrast with the latest Vatican’s stances against the State of Israel. This is the real issue in the relations between the Church and the Jews. For example, the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, appointed by the Pope in 2008, just joined a Christian-Muslim workshop in Doha.

The meeting of the Arab League was focussed on “interreligious conflict regarding Jerusalem”.  No Jews were invited.

La Civiltà Cattolica is a very special Vatican magazine. Every one of its articles is reviewed by the Holy See secretary of state before publication, so the magazine reflects his thoughts faithfully. The January edition of this magazine opens with a large editorial on the Palestinian refugees. Adopting the Arab propagandist word Nakba, the magazine declares that the refugees are a consequence of “ethnic cleansing” by Israeland that “the Zionists were cleverly able to exploit the Western sense of guilt for the Shoah to lay the foundations of their own state”.

Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric rants on the Holocaust are not very different. “A recent Vatican Synod on the Middle East marked a great regression in attitudes towards Israel”, writes in the Jerusalem Report the historian Sergio Minerbi.

The Vatican’s instrumentum laboris, a document for the synod on the Mideast just hosted in Rome, blamed Israel as uniquely  responsible for the Middle East crisis. The synod was carefully prepared for a year, and it produced a rash of anti-Jewish statements on both political and theological issues. This ungenerous expression was particular harsh, because whoever goes to Jerusalem sees it filled with crowds of pilgrims, processions, the religious faithful, ethnic groups and all faiths. Religious freedom, freedom of access and belief is total, as it has never been since the time of Islamic conquest.

At the synod, the archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, a cleric chosen by Ratzinger to draft the synod’s conclusions, denied the Jewish people’s biblical right to the Promised Land. “We Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people”. Bustros revived the “replacement theology”, the most ancient calumny that says that because of their denial of the divinity of Christ, the Jews have forfeited G-d’s promises to them, which have been transferred to Christians. This idea was reinforced in the synod’s final message, which argues that “recourse to theological and biblical positions, which use the Word of G-d to wrongly justify injustices, is not acceptable.”

Edmond Farhat, a Maronite Apostolic Nuncio, described Israel’s place in the Middle East in terms of a rejected “foreign implant” which has no specialists “capable of healing it”. The former patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, named by Benedict XVI to work on the conclusions of the synod in a Vatican-owned building run by the Custodian of the Holy Land, presented a document against Israel called “Kairos”. Among the signators are  the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, Armenian Torkon Manougian and Copt Anba Abraham, as well as Lutheran Manib Yunan and Anglican Suheil Dawani.

The document says: “The military occupation is a sin against God and against man”, actually excommunicates Christian supporters of Israel, takes sides against the very presence of Israel, likens the defensive barrier that has blocked suicide terrorism to apartheid, attacks the Jewish settlements invoking the name of God and conceptually cancels the Jewish state. It even legitimizes terrorism when it talks about the “thousands of prisoners who languish in Israeli jails” and which are “part of the society around us”. In fact, “resistance to the evil of occupation is a Christian's right and duty".

At the synod, Monsignor Twal said that Israel should be replaced by a new state for Muslims, Jews and Christians, ignoring the problem that Arab refugees and birth rates might sweep away the Jews. Secondly, he said that "100%" of the reason that Palestinians are running away is Israeli occupation.

A century ago, Europe was the center of Jewish life. More than 80 percent of world Jewry lived there. In the near future, the same percentage of world Jewry will live in Israel. That is why the Vatican’s stance on the Jewish State is much more important for the fate of the Jewish people than the old hat question “Who killed Jesus?”.

Under atomic and Islamist existential threats, today the remnant of the Jewish people risks being liquidated before the centennial of Israel in 2048. Six years ago, the Pope prayed for God to stop the “murderous hand” of terrorists, referred to the “abhorrent terrorist attacks” in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq, but left out the suicide bombing that had just killed five people in a shopping center in Netanya.

The future of the Jews doesn’t lie in the question on Jesus Christ, but on the fate of two best friends, Rachel Ben-Abu and Nofar Horowitz, both 16, both killed in Netanya during the terror attack that the Vatican “forgot” to mention. Their funerals were punctuated by wails of “Why, God, why?”. Their graves covered with wreaths and flowers. This is the living cross that the tiny State of Israel has had to carry for the last fifteen years. 



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