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March 22, 1985 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-03-22

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18 Friday, March 227-1985


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Papal View On Zionism
Is Slow To Change

Special to The Jewish News

On January 25, 1904, Theodor
Herzl had his long-sought audi-
ence with Pope Pius X. The meet-
ing_ was one in a series of
encounters between Herzl and
leaading political figures in
Europe, as a part of his search for
big-power sponsorship for
Zionism. Herzl's goal, in his own
words, was, "to obtain the
spiritual approval of the Church
of Rome."
Two days earlier, Herzl met the
Vatican Secretary of State, Car-
dinal Merry del Val, who gave
him advance indication of the
difficulties he would face. "I do not
rightly see how we can take the
initiative in this," the Cardinal
said. "So long as the Jews deny the
divinity of Christ, we certainly
cannot side with them . . . How
then, short of abandoning our own
highest principles, can we agree
to their regaining possession of
the Holy Land?"
Out of a sense of the dignity of
the Jews, whose representative he
felt he was, Herzl did not kiss the
Pope's hand when the audience
began. Later, he wrote in his di-
ary: "I believe that this spoiled my
chances with him, for everyone
who visits him kneels and at least
kisses his hand." Sure enough,
Pius answered in stern, categori-
cal manner: "We are unable to
favor this moment. We cannot
prevent the Jews from going to
Jerusalem — we could never
sanction it."
The key reason for the Church's
negative response to Zionism had
little-to do with Herzl's not kissing
the Pope's hand. It had a lot to do
with the Church's attitude toward
Judaism. Pope Pius X spoke out of
an 1800 year-old tradition.
In the past two decades, how-
ever — ever since Vatican II —
the Catholic church has been try-
ing to undo this teaching of con-
tempt. A new tolerance
engendered by liberalism, shame,
and shock at the Church's failures
during the Holocaust, Jewish vit-
ality, and decades of active
dialogue have led to a struggle to
overcome the supercessionist tra-
dition. Vatican II's own schema on
the Jews was ambivalent. It said
that "the Jews remain most dear
to God because of their fathers,"
but added "(God) does not repent
of the gifts He makes nor of the
calls He issues . ." Vatican II
opened the door. Further declara-
tions were even more positive.
In recent years, a number of
important developments have oc-
curred within the Catholic church
which do honor to its conscience
and attempt to repent for the past.
In 1983, a Vatican spokesman
made an unequivocal statement
that Jews should not be the sub-
ject of conversion activity. Pope
John Paul II, in the course of a
visit to Germany, made the first
unequivocal Papal statement —
albeit only with passing reference
— that the Jewish covenant re-
mains valid.
Recently, the Church again has
spoken of dialogue with the Jews,;
with the Jews being given at
unique and special status which
implies both their validity and
their ongoing existence. The big
remaining question is: can the

Church take the next logical step,
break with the supercessionist
tradition, and officially recognize
the State of Israel?
The possibility of change has to
be seen as a longshot, at best. On
the one hand, the fact that John
Paul II has proven to be conserva-
tive in doctrine whenever the
chips are down suggests that he
will not go beyond the past in
terms of recognizing Israel. Fur-
thermore, there are political pres-
sures, both from the Arab nations
and from Christians living within
Moslems' lands, against recogni-
tion of Israel.
On the other side, there is a con-
tinuing theological and
philosophical thrust within the
Church for recognizing Judaism
and the Jewish people. Pope John
Paul II has personally experi-
enced the Holocaust through his
years in Poland. There is some de-
sire within him for historic status
within the Church. Recognizing
the state and restructuring the
Catholic relationship with
Judaism could be a landmark de-
In 1896, after the Zionist Con-
gress, Herzl noted in_ his diaries,
"At Basel, I founded the Jewish
State. If I said this out loud today,
I would be greeted by universal
laughter. In five years ,perhaps;
and certainly in 50 years,
everyone will perceive it." It actu-
ally took only 51 years from that
date for the Jewish state to be
created. Is it too much to ask that
80 years after Herzl's meeting
with the Pope that the Catholic
church break out of its vicious
cycle of resistance to Zionism?

Pesach Bread
Ban In Works

Jerusalem (JTA) — Bread and
pita will not be allowed to be sold
publicly throughout the week of
Passover if a bill which passed its
preliminary reading in the Knes-
set last week becomes law.
The bill was introduced by the
NRP's (National Religious Party)
Avner Sciaky and other Orthodox
Knesseters joined his initiative.
The bill is unlikely to come into
effect in time for this Pesach. In
fact, some pundits question
whether it will ultimately pass
through the statutory three
readings at all.

Peace Forest?

Jerusalem (JTA) — Jewish Na-
tion,a1 Fund of America President
Charlotte Jacobson, called on
Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak last week to participate
in planting a peace forest 'on the
Israel-Egyptian border.
Jacobson raised the idea at the
final session of the JNF Assem-
bly. She said the project would ex-
press the wish of the two peoples
to ,to-exist in peace, and it would
allow Israeli and Egyptian citi-
zens the chance to raise their chil-
dren without the fear of wars and
hostile acts.

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