Pope Francis, on his recent, short visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, destroyed any progress achieved in building trust between the Jewish and Catholic worlds, says Frank Dimant, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada.
After 1,700 years of ongoing harassment, forced conversions, massacres and pogroms, one was looking forward to a different relationship in the 21st century between the Jewish world and Catholicism.
The latest Papal visit has destroyed a great deal of the good work of Vatican II and those who labored in the fields of building bridges. Each Papal visit to the Holy Land is filled with symbolic gestures and each move is calculated and orchestrated, and this visit was meant to embarrass and berate the Jewish State.
The visit by Pope Francis with his two wingmen, Rabbi Abraham Skovka and Imam Omar Abboud, was all part of the effort to help set the stage for a most severe attack by the Vatican on the Jewish homeland.
Pope Francis chose first to visit with Abu Mazen who is in the midst of forming a national unity government between Fatah and Hamas (a recognized international terrorist organization). Also, His Holiness would fly directly into what he calls the “Palestinian State” and not the Palestinian Authority.
‘What an Insult to the Victims of Nazism’
Pope Francis’s dramatic gesture at the security barrier was a paparazzi delight. It created an instant iconic photo that will be used by Islamists around the world. The Pope, dressed in his splendid white robe, accorded this security barrier the same status as the holy Western Wall of the Temple.
His hand and head were gently placed next to the anti-Semitic graffiti comparing the security wall, which has protected Israeli civilians from Islamist terrorists, as a wall that symbolized the Warsaw Ghetto wall. The Pope could not have chosen to insult the Jewish people with any greater gesture. What an insult to the victims of Nazism. What a mockery of history.
The Warsaw Ghetto confined destitute Jews prior to their departure to Auschwitz. They were starved, beaten and deprived of all human dignity by the Nazis. How grotesque to compare the security barrier wall to the Warsaw Ghetto wall. Of course, the analogy is not lost. The Nazis built the wall and now Jews have built what Pope Francis deems to be a similar wall to contain the Palestinians. A new lie in the history of blood libels against the Jewish people.
Not once did the Pope object to the imagery throughout Bethlehem that showed Jesus garbed in Muslim attire. Here was the new Jesus, no longer a Jew, but now transformed miraculously into a Palestinian being killed by Israeli soldiers. I wonder how this feeds the theology of those Catholics who still believe in the deicide that the Jews allegedly committed. These Catholics who have never fully embraced Vatican II: Do they now feel vindicated that Pope Francis did not chastise his hosts for this horrific anti-Semitic imagery?
Just as the Jewish world was finally beginning, in the post Holocaust era, to feel a sense of comfort and understanding from the Vatican, Pope Francis has destroyed the trust of the average Jew on the street. Of course, Jewish leaders will still rush to the Vatican for the five minute talk and photo op and the wonderful smiles that will be exhibited at those meetings. It will take more than photo ops for the Jewish street to trust the Vatican.
Aiding the Fatah-Hamas Alliance will Long Resonate with the Jewish People
Every person of faith should ask a simple question: Why would His Holiness, Pope Francis, invite Abu Mazen who is planning an entente with Hamas, whose mission is the destruction of the Jewish homeland, to come to Rome and pray together with Shimon Peres, the outgoing President of Israel, when there is an opportunity to pray together in Jerusalem (inviting Peres was not lost on the Israeli government as an insult to the prime minister).
Imagine if his Holiness, Pope Francis, would take his two wingmen, Abbas and Shimon Peres and said: Let us ascend to the Temple Mount which is holy to all of our three faiths, and let us pray together at the holiest site in the world. Of course, Pope Francis knows that Islamic tradition regards him as an infidel. As such, he would not be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount controlled by the Islamic Waqf – no Christian is permitted the opportunity to offer a silent prayer where Jesus once spoke. Nor could his Jewish wingman recite a single prayer for peace, as Jews are equally prohibited from uttering a prayer at Judaism’s holiest site. Too bad Peres did not use this historical moment and change the status of the Temple Mount. Rome is not the religious centre for Judaism or Islam, and what a failure not to have utilized the golden opportunity to finally open up the Temple Mount to all monotheistic religions.
There will be many apologists, many interpretations, and many efforts, I am sure, by good Catholic leaders to try to heal the wounds and the insults, and not even the forced visit by Pope Francis to the Jewish victims of Islamic terror will make amends for the damage. Giving aid and comfort to the Fatah-Hamas alliance will long resonate with the Jewish people, who are fulfilling the words of the Covenant and returning to build the Jewish Homeland.
(This article first appeared in The Jewish Tribune.)