ROME – The Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus signed a partnership agreement with pro-Israel Italian parliament members at Rome’s Fleming Hotel on Wednesday night, in a move that is expected to improve ties between Israel and Italy and eventually also with the Vatican.
Italy’s became the 18th foreign parliament with a pro-Israel caucus that has signed a pact expressing support for keeping Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel and opposing “futile” attempts to pressure Israel to make concessions in the diplomatic process. But while most of the pacts have been with mainly Evangelical Protestant Israel-supporters, the majority of the MPs in the Italian caucus are Catholic.
The powerful secretary of the Italian Senate, Lucio Malan, signed the accord from his hospital bed in Rome due to a heart condition. A member of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, Milan said he was heading the caucus because Israel’s future was vital to Italy and the entire Western world.
Milan expressed hope that Israel’s bond with the Italian parliament could serve as a springboard for improved relations with the Vatican and make up for episodes like the scandal surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s personal preacher, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, and his recent comparison of scrutiny over clerical abuse to anti-Semitism.
“Reaching out to the Vatican must be handled carefully and cautiously but fearlessly,” Milan said. “The Cantalamessa episode will be less likely to happen when we understand each other’s sensibilities. This caucus is a good way to prevent incidents like this one.”
Rocco Buttiglione, vice chairman of the Italian council of deputies and a Catholic, said that all Christians had a historical duty to prevent another Holocaust, especially because Christians participated in past attempts to destroy the Jewish people.
Jewish Italian parliament member Fiamma Nirenstein spoke about the need for Jews and Christians to unite in defending democracy from Islamic fundamentalism.
“Religious dialogue is not my cup of tea, but we have a political task to defend Israel and the Western world, and we can’t do that without strong support from the Christians,” Nirenstein said.
A group of Italian parliamentarians met at the Senate in Rome on Wednesday with Israeli caucus chairman MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), Labor MK Orit Noked and former tourism minister Benny Elon, who chairs the International Israeli Allied Caucuses. Israeli Ambassador Gideon Meir addressed the crowd in Italian at the event.
Elon’s speech at the Senate was greeted with calls of “hallelujah.”
Rotem said that protecting Israel from Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad was part of being a good Christian. Caucus director Josh
Reinstein said that the 18 caucuses have prevented anti-Israel votes
around the world, including on the controversial Goldstone Report.
“It is symbolic that this is our 18th caucus, because 18 is chai [life
in Hebrew] and Christians and Jews value life over everything,”
Reinstein said. “[Signing this pact] is especially inspirational,
because Christianity has its foundations in Rome and Israel is a Jewish
state. It is miraculous that we are working together.”