(Jerusalem) Pope Francis hid his pectoral cross in order not to “insult” the Chief Rabbi of Israel? He certainly offered at the grave of Theodor Herzl, a recognition previously inconceivable for the Catholic Church, including obeisance to Zionism. A recognition that the Church refused for over a hundred years for theological reasons. What are Pope Francis’ objective with it? Was the role of Rabbi Abraham Skorka especially to achieve the recognition previously refused by previous popes of Zionism?
Meeting with Chief Rabbi and the Hidden Cross
On Monday, Pope Francis paid the two Chief Rabbi’s of Israel a "courtesy call". The encounter took place in the Heichal Shlomo Center next to the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem instead. Contrary to expectations, both Chief Rabbis had appeared, and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
His father, Ovadja Joseph, who was from 1973-1983 Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, had in 2009 as head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement had forbidden Sephardic Jews from attending any meetings with Pope Benedict XVI. Holy Land (see separate report 700,000 Orthodox Jews at the Funeral of Grand Rabbi - Ovadja Josef Denounced Meeting with Benedict XVI as "idolatry". ).
While his father as head of the anti-Zionist Shas movement refused a meeting, the son took part, considering his institutional role as Chief Rabbi and thus as one of the two Israeli constitutional judges.
"Crucifixes Are an Insult to Jews"
Both incumbent Chief Rabbis, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Joseph are sons of former Chief Rabbis. From the father of David Lau, Israel Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of 1993-2003 comes the statement: "Crucifixes are an insult to Jews. The cross is against the Jewish religion and the sight of the cross is forbidden for a Jew."
Did Pope Francis therefore hid his cross during his meeting with the Chief Rabbi? Or was it just a coincidence that the cross slipped just at this meeting behind the cincture? During the meeting with the Chief Rabbis, the papal pectoral cross was behind the cingulum, so that, in any event, it was not even partially visible as a cross.
Sensational Bow of a Pope Before Zionism
Certainly not a coincidence, however, was the reverence that Pope Francis demonstrated to Zionism before the meeting with the Chief Rabbis. The Pope put flowers down on the grave of Theodor Herzl, who is honored in Israel as the "Father of the Fatherland". Such recognition of Zionism, a political movement of Judaism, had still been made by no pope, because it has to do with politics and not religion. So the visit of the Pope in the Holy Land was paved by incoherence and other controversial statements that is precisely expressed in its preferred, though not theologically easily understandable attitude towards Judaism. Since the Holy Land trip it may his attitude is now favorable towards Zionist Judaism. The role of his rabbinical friend Abraham Skorka seems to have been decisive for this recognition of Zionism.
The Church Rejects Zionism
The question is not trivial, since Pope Pius X in 1904 met with Theodor Herzl and rejected the creation of a Jewish state for theological reasons and this attitude of the Catholic Church has been determinative ever since (see report Pius X and Theodor Herzl - Gesture of Apology by Pope Francis ? ). The State of Israel was never officially been recognized by the Catholic Church, as also a part of Judaism rejects Zionism today. It was not until 1984, that the State of Israel was first mentioned by John Paul II in a papal encyclical. Only in 1994 diplomatic relations were established between Israel and the Holy See. Pope Benedict XVI. 2009 had complied with all diplomatic usage to visit the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. However, from a recognition of Zionism or a visit to the grave of Theodor Herzl was not considered. Zionism is a certain political movement within Judaism. For this reason alone, the popes refused recognition in the past, which would have at least met interference in political affairs.
But Pope Francis apparently wants to make policy, as his invitation by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Abu Mazen shows in the Vatican. Thus, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, the "hawks" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip, were ignored. Whether the papal political activism will be successful remains to be seen. The question of what significance an invitation to "common prayer," which appears to be the facade for negotiations, will form without falling into a soup of religious syncretism.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org