Ties between the Roman Catholic church and the Jews, on the
one hand, and the church's ties with Islam, on the other,
are filled with contradictions.
Pope John Paul II and his associates still repeatedly
underscore their belief in the Catholic faith. And he has
also defended Pope Pius XII, the target of very harsh
criticism because of his behavior -- notably his silence --
during the Holocaust.
As Islamic fundamentalism has gained strength, Christians in
many Muslim countries have become victims of terrible
Yet, according to an article by Ha'aretz
correspondent E. Salperter, the Catholic church is now
trying to improve its relations with the regime in Iran. In
addition, a charitable organization of the Vatican has
become one of the leading advocates of abolishing the
sanctions on Iraq.
While the Pope demonstrates unprecedented warmth for Israel,
his Church is active in favor of the Palestinians in order
to protect Christians living in Arab countries.
These contradictions are due at least partially to the
internal conflict in the higher echelons of the Catholic
Church between the conservatives and those somewhat less
The German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the
Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, makes
sure to follow his supportive remarks for Jews with the
"hope that the Jewish people will say 'yes' to J."
The relations between the Vatican and the State of Israel
have always been influenced by three principal factors: One
is theological and is related to the church's relationship
with Judaism; the second factor is the need to consider the
sensibilities of Arab countries out of concern for the fate
of Catholics residing in them; and the third is the fact
that Eretz Yisroel is the "Holy Land."
The Vatican's news agency clearly reflects both criticism of
Israel and the concern for the state of Christians in
Islamic countries, Ha'aretz pointed out.
The news agencies and other Vatican media also give wide
publicity to the suffering of the population in the
territories. The church news agencies, however, generally
include responses from Israeli spokespeople.
A few weeks ago, in a meeting with diplomats from 175
countries, the Pope warned that the situation in the Middle
East could spiral out of control. He also spoke of "a
continued injustice and contempt for international law that
forbids holding onto territory by force."
Nevertheless, Catholic Church spokespeople have not spared
their criticism of Israel's Arabs. In an interview published
by one of the Vatican's news agencies, Brother David Yaeger,
a senior member of the Franciscan order and a professor of
church law in Rome was quoted severely criticizing Israel's
"arrogant attitude" during the talks with the Palestinians.
But at the same time Yaeger expressed disappointment with
Yasser Arafat on the eve of the recent prime ministerial
elections in Israel.
In his moderate remarks about the Sharon government, Yaeger
said it will have to "get rid of the most serious threat to
Israel's relations with Christianity"--which is the
permission given to build a mosque next to a church in
The Vatican has given considerable publicity to the attacks
on Christian communities and churches in the Muslim
According to Salpeter, a survey of the events of 2000
published by the Vatican in early March said that 165,000
Christians have lost their lives in religious and ethnic
clashes, especially in Indonesia, Sudan, East Timor as well
as in Egypt and India.
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, published
early in the year in New York, there are currently 1.9
billion Christians in the world, 1.2 billion Muslims and 14
There are theological reasons for the new relationship the
Catholic Church wants to create with the Jews, while the
desire to improve relations with Muslims is considered a
It may be assumed that the dialogue with 14 million members
of the Jewish faith will have more influence on the future
of Christianity than its relationship with the 1.2 billion
Muslims, because its relationship with Judaism affects the
very soul of the Catholic faith.