The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Tuesday expressed great appreciation and wishes
of good health for Pope Benedict XVI following his stunning announcement that he
will retire on February 28 – the first pope to retire in office in 600
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, who had five audiences
with the pope during his nearly eight years as pontiff, issued the following
Benedict XVI has profoundly bolstered the positive trajectory of
Catholic-Jewish relations launched by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked closely with John Paul during his
26 year papacy, developing a historic new relationship between Catholic and Jews
as “loving brothers and sisters” after centuries of tragedy.
tenure as pope, Benedict pledged that he would always stand with the Jewish
people against anti-Semitism. He strongly condemned Holocaust denial. He made it
a point early in his papacy to visit Israel, going to Yad Vashem and the Western
Wall, thus cementing the historic act of his predecessor for future generations
and strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Vatican. He became the
first pope to visit a synagogue in the United States. And he also visited the
synagogue in Rome, institutionalizing these visits.
Pope Benedict XVI
reconfirmed the official Catholic position that God’s covenant with the Jewish
people at Sinai endures and is irrevocable. He said that the Catholic Church
should not try and convert Jews.
There were bumps in the road during this
papacy – the rewriting of the old Good Friday prayer for Jews making it more
problematic for Jews, starting negotiations with the anti-Semitic group the
Society of St. Pius X, and moving World War II Pope Pius XII one step closer to
sainthood while the Secret Vatican Archives are still under wraps. But he
listened to our concerns and tried to address them, which shows how close our
two communities have become in the last half century, and how much more work we
need to do together to help repair a broken world.
In his trilogy on the
life of Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict re-interpreted problematic passages in the
Gospels of Matthew and John that dismisses the negative images and false charges
against the Jewish people which has led to millennia of persecution and death
He importantly declared the validity of the Jewish reading
of the Hebrew Bible, or Tanach.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in
1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through
programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.