Israel’s chief rabbinate severs Vatican ties

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The Jewish state's highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See expressing "sorrow and pain" at the papal decision. "It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before," the letter said. Chief rabbis of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were parties to the letter.

The rabbinate, which faxed a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, also canceled a meeting with the Vatican set for March. The rabbinate and the state of Israel have separate ties with the Vatican, and Wednesday's move does not affect state relations.

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsJudaism

Posted January 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Brian from T19 wrote:

While the reason for the rehabilitation is completely separate from any opinion expressed by +Williamson, this Pope in particular needs to be sensitive to issues related to Christian-Jewish relations.  It would be wise for him to require +Williamson to recant these statements and ban him from any “false teachings” regarding the Holocaust.  That would settle the issue and allow the Vatican to retain the integrity of the original decision for rehabilitation.

January 28, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
2. Paula Loughlin wrote:

It is not the Pope’s fault that the Chief Rabbi can not be bothered finding out the facts of what lifting the excommunication actually means.

January 28, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
3. Brian from T19 wrote:

No Paula, but it is his responsibility to ensure that his Bishops are not promoting false teachings.  The Chief Rabbinate is not asking for a change in the decision, just disciplinary action for the now rehabilitated bishop.  That seems reasonable to me.

January 28, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
4. Paula Loughlin wrote:

The Bishop is not reinstated.  I think Amy Welborn’s site has the best source links on this issue.

January 28, 6:33 pm | [comment link]
5. Charles wrote:


The Pope lifted the excommunications, but these bishops are not in communion with the Catholic Church.  The Pope can order the SSPX to do many things, but they certainly don’t always obey.  They are not yet “his Bishops” in the sense in which you indicated, nor are they “rehabilitated.”

January 28, 6:35 pm | [comment link]
6. Brian from T19 wrote:

I see the point.  I think his statements in opposition to those statements is enough then.

January 28, 6:40 pm | [comment link]
7. Ex-Anglican Sue wrote:

Given that the Holy Father has lifted the excommunications, the bishops aretechnically in communion with the Church - but they are not yet regularised, not yet part of the Church’s structure.  It’s interesting, however, that Bp Fellay has now officially repudiated Bp Williamson’s views and implies that he has reprimanded the latter; up till now, anti-Semitism has pervaded much of the separatist traditionalist movement, and the Rabbinate need only to watch carefully and they’ll see that this move by the Pope (whose grasp of tactics matches Garry Kasparov’s) is actually the start of a very necessary purge of the nutters.

January 28, 6:50 pm | [comment link]
8. Dan Crawford wrote:

Much of the controversy could have been avoided had the Pope released a strong statement singling out Williamson’s errors and making it clear that the Bishop needed to publicly repudiate them.  Unfortunately, he didn’t do that, thus enhancing the Vatican’s already wretched reputation for insensitivity.

January 28, 7:11 pm | [comment link]
9. TACit wrote:

A very good exchange, #1-7 - it should rewarding to the blog host that a misunderstanding was cleared up by a dispassionate exchange of information.  Now if only numerous rabbis would also elect to participate in such exchanges, #8’s remark notwithstanding.

Pope Benedict seems to understand free will deeply enough to recognize that Williamson will not likely be led to recant by order from above, but rather through the witness of the Christian community within which he desires to be allowed to minister.  His own bishop Fellay has already publicly described the Holocaust-denying remarks as stupid.  It is made clearer in this article:
what the dynamic of exchange among Vatican, Israel and rabbis really looks like.

January 28, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
10. Ad Orientem wrote:

I understand why the Pope did what he did. For the record I think he was right. But I also can and do understand why Jews are offended by this. For them the Holocaust is not an abstract topic of history. If I had had a significant number of my relatives gassed and then tossed into ovens I would probably be more than a little irked by someone who denied the crime ever occurred and having the Pope seemingly welcoming him with open arms. Yes all of the nuanced and legalistic arguments about Williamson’s status are all true. But the Jews don’t understand any of that or really care. And honestly I don’t blame them. To them this is personal and very emotional.

I think the Pope was in an untenable position. No matter what he did there was going to be fallout. Ultimately he concluded, rightly I believe, that his first duty was to heal (if possible) a schism within his own church. The Vatican is not completely staffed by dolts. They must have known they were going to offend people with this. But they did it anyway. I think it was an act of courage, but a very painful one for those who are understandably hurt by it.

And I think that while we are defending (for the most part) the Pope’s actions we should not be insensitive to the very real and understandable pain this has caused among other people. I really wish Bp. Williamson would just crawl back under whatever rock he has emerged from and stay there.

Under the mercy,

January 28, 9:24 pm | [comment link]
11. Observer from RCC wrote:

The chief rabbinate chose the wrong person to try to pressure.  B XVI knows what the revocation of the excommunication means and does not mean.  The chief rabbinate cannot re-define it for the RCC.  The trick of a person or group of people re-defining the meaning of a belief or activity of another person, group of people or institution ... in the face of a rational explanation of the “owner” of that belief or activity”  ... in order effect a change in that person or institution is so commonly used these days that it a less useful tactic than it once was.

No matter what the RCC does, the criticism will come.  The surprising thing is that the constant criticism is very liberating ... it is a steady drone and does not make much of an impression.

January 28, 9:28 pm | [comment link]
12. RoyIII wrote:

Good for the rabbi.  I am not Jewish, I’m an episcopalian, and I like the Pope.  But, this anti-semetic ex-bishop needs some rehabilitation and re-programming.

January 28, 10:50 pm | [comment link]
13. johnd wrote:

Another article that sheds further light on this topic.

January 29, 10:26 am | [comment link]
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