The Pope needs to be more clear on antisemitism

Pope Francis in his first public appearance. Source: creative commons

Despite the official explanations, it is very difficult to believe that the failure to read the speech to the European rabbis, received in audience by Pope Francis, was caused by a health problem. A problem which, among other things, does not seem to have arisen during the other and various papal commitments during the day. The episode – certainly not mitigated by the diplomatic prudence of the speech not delivered and written by the collaborators – at a time when the shameful flame of anti-Semitism is rekindled in Europe and America, constitutes a worrying signal. In fact, it cannot be denied that what has happened makes the situation of relations between Bergoglio and the Jewish world even more complicated. A position, that of the pontiff, which is increasingly difficult to define.

Furthermore, this attitude does not only concern Israel, but also Ukraine as well as other conflicts, such as the one unleashed by the Azeris against the Armenians. Francis doesn’t like wars, but behind this statement, which I would even dare to define as obvious, something else seems to hide every time: the refusal to express a moral judgement, to clearly point out the difference between victim and aggressor. One might even think that – despite the initial statements immediately after the Hamas attack – the pontiff is no longer entirely sure that the victims of a sudden and unjustified attack at least have the right to defend themselves, just as the suspicion arises that his declared antipathy for the United States prevents him from feeling sympathy for the attacked countries that enjoy American protection.
But in the case of Israel and the Jews there are other issues that aggravate the situation. The Catholics of the Holy Land are almost all Palestinians and also live in Gaza, where they have taken refuge in a parish to which the Pope apparently calls almost every day. But can this Catholic presence, undoubtedly blameless and subjected to a thousand dangers, be enough to justify the lack of clarity with which the ecclesiastical hierarchies – following the pontiff – have so far expressed their opinions?

And what about the document on “human brotherhood” signed in 2019 by Bergoglio together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, thus showing ignorance of the antisemitism of this institution, which has clearly emerged in recent days? The declaration Nostra aetate, fruit of the Council Vatican II, and subsequently Ratzinger’s writings abandoned the infamous substitution theory, stating once and for all that Christians did not replace the Jews in the alliance with God, because the divine gifts are irrevocable. However, despite these decisive steps, the distrust of the Catholic world towards the Jewish people seems to re-emerge every time declaring solidarity with the Jews requires paying a price.

Judaism is not one religion among the many that participate in global gatherings for peace. Judaism means our roots, Judaism is us. Judaism together with the Christian tradition is the basis of Western culture, a culture that is certainly not perfect but the only one that defends the freedom of the person, the protection of everyone’s life and equality between women and men before the law. Until proven otherwise, the West is the only part of the globe in which the values – rightly defended in the document on “human brotherhood” – have found implementation, albeit imperfect. Not defending Judaism, accepting the new antisemitism as a sort of fatal consequence of the Palestinian question, means giving up our culture, the roots of our freedom, and favoring an uncritical rapprochement with that Islamic world openly supported by China and Russia.

Is it possible for us, as Christians, as Catholics, to accept this ambiguity which barely hides the ancient and ever-present distrust towards the Jews? I think that even from a secular point of view, the attack of radical Islamism on our culture, on our way of life, is so obvious that we cannot hide the reality: behind the attack on synagogues, on Jewish cemeteries, it is all West to be attacked. Christians – or, if you prefer, atheists of ancient Christian tradition – will certainly not be spared thanks to the uncertainty of the Church. It’s good for everyone to realize this.

About the Author
Sergio Restelli is an Italian political advisor, author and geopolitical expert. He served in the Craxi government in the 1990's as the special assistant to the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Martelli and worked closely with anti-mafia magistrates Falcone and Borsellino. Over the past decades he has been involved in peace building and diplomacy efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. He has written for Geopolitica and several Italian online and print media. In 2020 his first fiction "Napoli sta bene" was published.
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