'Papal visit likely to lack drama of predecessor's trip'

Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the Int'l Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultations, briefs reporters ahead of papal visit.

rabbi david rosen 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
rabbi david rosen 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Pope Benedict XVI's visit next week will likely further relations between Catholics and Jews but stop short of dramatic declarations and the intensity of his predecessor's pilgrimage to the Holy Land nine years ago, Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultations, said on Monday. He was speaking to reporters at the Jerusalem office of The Israel Project. "The pope will be walking in the footsteps of his predecessor, both figuratively and literally," Rosen said, recalling John Paul II's visit to Israel in 2000. "But Pope Benedict XVI is a much shyer person than his predecessor. He's more comfortable in the world of books and ideas, and he doesn't have significant diplomatic experience," he said. But Rosen also said that Benedict, whom he's known for 20 years, holds a very positive attitude regarding the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish People. "However," Rosen said, "this is not yet mirrored amongst some in the Vatican and grassroots Catholic communities, who perhaps feel that bilateral faith issues have become too prominent and perhaps activities should be scaled down in proportion to the size and impact of Judaism to the world." The issues that may have brought this to light included the controversy surrounding Benedict's recent lifting of the excommunication on Bishop Richard Williamson, a holocaust denier, and the proposed beatification of Pope Pius XII, Rosen said. Rosen explained that John Paul hadn't, and Benedict had yet to ratify the beatification of Pius, a step toward declaring him a saint, perhaps because both recognized the sensitivities of the issue to the Jewish people, given the link between the Church, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. "While the beatification process would be seen by Jews as a whitewashing of the period of the Shoah, I've always felt that it's not the business of the Jewish people to tell [the Catholic Church] who their saints are," Rosen said. "We must remember that it is only 50 years since the Vatican adopted its bilateral relations policy."