The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a very interesting article on its English website about the new Pope Benedict XVI. To the Israeli, and Jews in general, this new pope’s history and track record are of interest, if only because we’re all waiting to see how will things go now, especially after the pretty good interfaith relations established by John Paul II. Go read the article and then come back.

“New pope seen continuing relations with Israel, Jews” By Peter Hirschberg

For the most part, it seems like the speculations about having a transitory pope are turning out to be correct so far: choose an older, strong pontiff that can hold the church on the course left by John Paul while those in power have a chance to digest the previous pope’s legacy and decide where they want to go next.

As a Jew, I sincerely hope that the good relations that were established by John Paul are continued, though with Benedict I still have this nagging feeling at the back of my mind that we should be always ready (that this election, and that this feeling of being on our toes, comes on the week just as we are to start celebrating Passover cannot be seen as coincidence; there is a message there for us that we must heed). In particular, there is one passage that exemplifies perfectly why is it that this former head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (which in effect makes him an heir to Torquemada, sensationalism aside) makes my spider sense tingle (emphasis mine):

In the document, Ratzinger seeks to tackle the Jews’ refusal to accept Jesus as the messiah and Judaism’s insistence that the messiah has not yet come.

“He argued that this position is also part of the divine plan,” explains Rosen, who now heads the American Jewish Committee’s Interreligious Affairs department, “and the fact Jews don’t accept Jesus must not be seen as an act of rejecting God, but as part of God’s plan to remind the world that peace and salvation for all humanity has not yet come. This is amazing. He took something that has been the source of major condemnation of Judaism and the Jewish people down the ages and twisted it into something of a positive theological nature.”

Positive? Are we reading the same sentences? The above is so condescending that it’s infurriating. Unfortunately it is a doctrine that is at the center of the new pope’s ideology from his days as head of the Doctrine for the Faith.

I guess in the end, as long as he pays more attention to his own backyard, it’s just fine and dandy. I will keep an eye on Rome, though.

[NOTE: Originally I had written a really long reply in which I was annoyed beyond belief at the tone of the quote from Ratzinger. When I hit the “Publish Post” button, however, I lost it, and I didn’t have the energy to retype the whole thing. The above is greatly abbreviated, but it does keep the gyst of it all.]

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