Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5761 - April 18, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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The Vatican's Complex Relations With Moslems and Jews
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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 persecutions.

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 so.

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 Nazareth.

The Vatican has given considerable publicity to the attacks on Christian communities and churches in the Muslim world.

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 million Jews.

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 political need.

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.


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