Pope Benedict’s thoughts on the Jews and Israel in his book interview, though unfavourably heralded by out-of-context remarks on Pope Pius XII, receive attentive and positive coverage in a report in The Jerusalem Post.
Corresponent Lisa Palmieri-Billig notes that, in Light of The World, the Pope’s book-length interview with Peter Seewald, “Benedict XVI speaks extensively on
issues related to Israel and the Jewish world, confirming his unwavering
personal commitment to both. He also explains the reasons for his conviction
that Pius XII was “one of the great righteous men,” but without advocating
further moves toward proclaiming him a saint.”
A theological point is basic:
Ratzinger holds true to his
belief in the “intrinsic unity of the Old and the New Covenant, the two parts of
the Holy Scripture,” an awareness he says he acquired “since the very first day”
of his early theological studies. He first made his theological views on Judaism
public in 1990, when as the cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, he was interviewed in “Jews and Judaism in the Universal
Catechism,” a piece published simultaneously in Studi Cattolici (in Italian) and
Midstream (in English).
He says, “We can read the New Testament only
together with what preceded it, otherwise, we would completely fail to
Although many Jews appreciated Pope John Paul’s calling them “our elder brothers”, Benedict now prefers another family image:
He explains why he no longer calls Jews “our elder brothers” but
rather “fathers in the faith,” stating that “the phrase ‘elder brothers,’ which
had already been used by John XXIII, is not so welcome to Jews. The reason is
that, in the Jewish tradition, the ‘elder brother’ – Esau – is also the brother
who gets rejected.”
The Pope expresses warm appreciation of his reception in Israel last year, acknowledges a Vatican lapse regarding the Lefebvrist bishop William, who denies the Holocaust, but insists on the integrity and heroism of Pius XII’s conduct during the Nazi era.
Ratzinger holds that Pius XII
did not “protest more clearly” because “he saw what consequences would follow
from an open protest. We know that personally he suffered greatly because of it.
He knew he actually ought to speak out, and yet the situation made that
impossible for him.”
The book, by the way, is selling like hot cakes.