No dialogue today, thank you

By Geoffrey Paul
February 10, 2010

Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to the UK is bound to stimulate discussion about Christian-Jewish relations in the UK. The fact of the matter, here as almost everywhere else in the world. is that contacts on the Jewish side with Christian partners in dialogue are almost entirely handled by Reform and Liberal rabbis and lay leaders. Such Orthodox contacts as there are remain little more than tentative, despite the visits by Israel's Chief Rabbis to the Pope in Rome, the ubiquitous presence of the Orthodox Rabbi David Rosen at international Christian-Jewish gatherings and the Chief Rabbi's joint patronage of the Council of Christians and Jews with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the (Catholic) Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.

Why Orthodox Jews hold back from this dialogue with Christians, specifically Catholics, who have made historic changes in their deicidic and other attitudes to Jews, was examined intensely in a recent contribution to an Italian Jewish journal by the Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican, Mordecai Lewy, which was picked up and republished in full by the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano. It makes for a good and challenging read in any language.

Ambassador Lewy recalls that the late and great Rabbi Soloveitchik resented any inter-religious dialogue that lead to discussing principles of faith with Catholics but he didn't mind Jews and Christians talking together about "soft" topics, such as bioethics, ecology, violence, etc. But, Ambassador Lewy notes, "the Catholic Cburch initiated in the Sixties a radical change towards Jews. Conversion is banned to a distant and unknown eschatological horizon. The survivability of Judaism is guaranteed with the establishment of the Jewish State. Their hand is stretched out to us. It would be unwise not to grasp it, lest we mortgage our future in continued animosity with the Catholic world. The first 2000 years do not warrant repetition. Both of us deserve better."

To which I would say "Hear, hear" and "Amen" and "Selah," were it not that the dark, dark shadow of Pius XII continues to hang heavily over every encounter with the Catholic Cburch and Benedict does nothing to shake himself free from the unforgettable and dreadful fate of the hapless Jews of Rome taken away in a day to the death camps from under the very windows of the Vatican itself. Ora pro nobis....


Avraham Reiss

Wed, 02/10/2010 - 20:36

Rate this:

0 points

Orthodox Judaism has little or nothing to gain from a dialog with the Catholic Church, possibly barring a dilution of antisemitism should the Church give the (sy)nod..

Basically, Christianity determined that the Jews were destined to wander forever, as punishment for killing their "god". The establishment of the State of Israel directly contradicted the concept of the Wandering Jew, and the church had to rationalize this in the sixties by issuing the Schema, which stated that the Jews alive today bear no responsibility for killing Christ, so the State of Israel is no longer a problem.


The current (German) Pope's recent acceptance back into the flock of the Holocaust-denying bishop,
shows that there is still a distance to cover for the church.


Wed, 02/10/2010 - 20:53

Rate this:

0 points

I seem to recall reading that Pius was not quite the demon that he was painted, that he endeavoured to save Jews behind the scenes. Also, I thought Sir Sigmund Sternberg played a big part in the Vatican's establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, and I think he's Orthodox. Pope John 23rd helped to pave the way for smoother Jewish-Catholic relations.

Moshe Fukks

Fri, 02/12/2010 - 05:50

Rate this:

0 points


"Basically, Christianity determined that the Jews were destined to wander forever, as punishment for killing their "god"

That's not really accurate as many Xtians believe that the Jews needed to return home from their long exile before the messiah could return to earth - hence why many American Christians are only too happy to help the Isreali cause.


The reason that orthodox don't get involved is that they are, by nature, on the fundamentalist end of the religous spectrum - and generally look with scorn on Christianity (as well as reformed and liberal Judaism).


You must be logged in to post a comment.