Gerald L. Zelizer: What the Pope Did for JewsRoundup: Talking About History
[Gerald L. Zelizer, rabbi of Neve Shalom, a Conservative congregation in New Jersey, is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.]
At best, many popes have merely suffered the Jews as God's outcasts. A few actively promoted their forced conversion.
• In 1963, Pope John XXIII convened a church council that uprooted the pernicious idea that Jews are cursed by God. Pope John Paul II went even further. He described both Jews and Judaism as our "elder brother," while his papal actions dressed that rhetoric with meaning.
• In 1964, Pope Paul VI visited Israel but refused to speak its name lest it suggest recognition. In 1993-94, Pope John Paul II led the Vatican to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
• In 1979, John Paul prayed at Auschwitz and in later years asked forgiveness for Catholics who contributed to the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust and Inquisition.
• In 1980, he affirmed not only God's continuing covenant with the Jewish people, but the ongoing vitality of the Jewish faith.
• In 1986, he was the first pope since the apostle Peter to visit a synagogue — this one in Rome.
Sure, some of my fellow Jews "kvetch" (complain) about John Paul's errors, both of omission and commission:
• While acknowledging the sin of individual Catholics in the Inquisition and Holocaust, he avoided the systemic errors of the Catholic Church in laying the ground for those horrors.
• He promoted the sainthood of Pius XII, whose wartime record regarding Nazism came under criticism.
But those critics should put matters in context. Catholic historian Eamon Duffy of Cambridge University observed in a PBS commentary: "The church is the spotless body of Christ and does not commit sins, while the institution, staffed by sinful people, does."
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Soviet Politburo Discussed CIA Billion Dollar Spy Adolf Tolkachev
- Pentagon withholds Iraq War photos showing detainee abuse
- These Rebels Have Amassed A Library From Syria’s Ruins
- Was 1916 fire at Canadian Parliament set by German saboteur?
- United Nations Calls On U.S. To Pay African Americans Reparations For Slavery
- Juan Cole says America’s inclination to turn to the military started with Manifest Destiny
- History Jobs Drop
- Paul Krugman gives credence to Robert J. Gordon's pessimism about American economic growth
- Harvard President Drew Faust Condemns Free Tuition Proposal from Outsider Overseers Ticket
- Andrew Roberts says Trump is the Mussolini of America with double the vulgarity