Posts Tagged ‘Jews’


In 13 History on 2015/06/05 at 12:00 AM

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Sr. Audrey Gerwing (a Catholic Sister of Sion) writes of the experience she and Sr. Marge Zdunich had this summer.

“Marge and I began our pilgrimage to Poland long before we ever left Canada. We spent many hours preparing, reading, talking and discussing what we wanted to see and experience in our time in Poland. All the prep work bore much fruit in the 10 days we were in Poland.

We began in Warsaw where we followed the paths of the Jewish People from the beginning of their life in Poland and ending with the death of over 500,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. There really was NOTHING to see–nothing was left standing; it had all been destroyed by Hitler and his henchmen; not a stone was left upon stone. So we had to do our own investigation and searching. It was like trying to find the needle in the hay stack–only the hay stack had been removed! The Ghetto of 1940 was huge and ran the entire north – south of Warsaw covering over 2.4% of city of Warsaw; small by any modern standards and yet contained over 400,000 Jews. After much walking in and out of small streets, and corners we finally found plaques that revealed some of the important places in the ghetto such as Mila 18, the last stand of the resistance ghetto fighters, the “umshlaplatz” where the Jews were rounded up and put on transports, one synagogue that had been restored since then. And finally we found the old cemetery dating back from the 12 th century. In this cemetery there were many tombs for those who died in the ghetto.

From Warsaw we went to Krakow where we spent 4 days with Sion and then went to Auschwitz and Berkenau the largest death camps during the war. I cannot adequately describe these camps…the electrified fences keeping people in and others out….the hundreds of packed barracks, the smell of which must have been something akin to rotten fish…..the killing walls where prisoners were summarily shot mostly to keep people in fear of even thinking of escaping or rebelling….and yet the rebellion was visible – so visible that the letter ‘B’ on the entrance to A was upside down. We walked for hours and never came to the end of the camps. The second day we were there we did the way of the cross at A-B with a friend of Marge and mine. It was the right way for us to be there – as Christians asking and seeking forgiveness….praying for the women who were martyred there…being crucified just for being Jewish, or Polish or a resister….the largest cemetery in the entire world is here; and for me, in the end, the resurrection came in the form of a gentle breeze that accompanied us along this journey; a gentle breeze that was so refreshing in the heat of the day; a gentle breeze that seemed to say to us: we are the Ruah of God, we are the breathe of God breathing new life into this place. We who have been martyred are with The Holy One forever – this place is not the last word. We finished with saying Kaddish for all those who perished there – Jews and non-Jews.“


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Sisters of Sion Dynamic Movement of the Holy Spirit #25


Breaking New Ground in Jewish-Catholic Relations

In Uncategorized on 2014/09/19 at 12:00 AM

Pope_Francis_President_of_Israel3-255x255Pope Francis and Shimon Perez

The Holy Father’s friendships and strong tradition of dialogue with Jewish leaders are already having an impact, building on the foundation provided by previous popes.

NEW YORK — The bonds between Jews and Catholics have never been stronger in the Church’s 2,000-year history, but some Jewish leaders say that, with Pope Francis, the best is about to get even better.

Blessed Pope John XXIII reset Catholic-Jewish relations in the 1960s, seeking to reconcile the grievances of the past, in which Catholics had treated Jews less like beloved brothers and more like strangers — or worse, as enemies. The Church approved that outreach in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council with the document Nostra Aetate, and Popes Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI all continued efforts to deepen those relations.

But Pope Francis’ pontificate represents a new chapter of deeper understanding and friendship between Jews and Catholics.

“Pope Francis has very close personal friends from his days as cardinal who are rabbis, who are leaders in the Jewish community,” said Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel for the World Jewish Congress (WSJ). “The dialogue and the relationship have been unprecedented in terms of warmth and closeness.”

Rosensaft said the Pope’s relationship with Jews in Buenos Aires reveals “a totally new model that we’ve never seen before.”

“The relationship is not a formal or intellectual one. But in addition to being intellectual, or symbolic, it is also heartfelt and intuitive,” he said. “That makes a tremendous difference.”

Rabbi Skorka

Few things highlight Pope Francis’ relationship with the Jews more than his deep, abiding friendship with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires. The two men started a friendship in the late 1990s with a joke over their favorite soccer teams, and they published a book in 2010 called On Heaven and Earth, revealing their interreligious dialogue on 29 different topics.

“He does what he says, and he speaks what’s on his mind and what he feels in a very direct and clear way,” Rabbi Skorka told the Register in an exclusive interview. “He’s a respectful person who respects me, really, in everything he says. He’s a lovely person, very simple and highly spiritual.”

The Pope and Rabbi Skorka made history by sharing meals and praying together during Sukkot and Sabbath at the Vatican — making Pope Francis perhaps the first bishop of Rome to do so, since St. Peter himself.

Rabbi Skorka has been in the United States sharing his experiences with Pope Francis at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York on Oct. 29 and at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, where he received an honorary degree.

The book co-written by Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka reveals how they feel dialogue should be conducted: by becoming acquainted with the person, viewing him as having something good to say, but not compromising one’s different identity while finding common ground together.

Rabbi Skorka said he and Pope Francis have discussed that the next step in their dialogue “will be a theological one”: what a Catholic means to a Jew and what a Jew means to a Catholic.

Francis’ Personal Touch

Rosensaft said that Pope Francis’ personal touch leaves the deepest impression. The Pope had surprised Rosensaft with a personal email, later published in The Washington Post, thanking Rosensaft for mailing him a copy of a guest sermon he had written for his synagogue about where an all-knowing and all-powerful God was present in the Holocaust.

Rosensaft is the son of two Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, or Shoah. The Nazis had killed his mother’s first husband and her young son, his brother. Rosensaft’s sermon, which Pope Francis said contained “the only possible hermeneutic interpretation,” concluded that God’s presence was “alongside and within the victims, those who perished and those who survived.”

“The idea that Pope Francis reached out to me and validated my approach is a tremendous gift,” Rosensaft said. “It is very indicative of his sensitivity to be a spiritual leader and a role model for humanity as a whole.”

Father John Crossin, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said Pope Francis’ attitude reveals his idea of a “culture of encounter,” where a person walks with others, respects them, while “sharing with others his faith and what he believes.”

“It’s how he relates to other people with respect, love and concern,” he said.

“The bigger picture is his whole thinking that we need a culture of encounter (which is more broad than just the Jewish community) with everybody — no matter what they believe in,” Father Crossin added.

Actions Accompany Words

Rosensaft said Pope Francis not only displayed this personal concern to the World Jewish Congress’ president, Ron Lauder, but has shown that actions follow his words.

He said Lauder had met with Pope Francis in September to share Jewish concerns that the Polish government was going to curtail their religious liberty by banning the kosher slaughter of animals. Rosensaft said Pope Francis thanked Lauder for bringing this to his attention and said he would see what he could do. Within a month, the Polish bishops were speaking out against the legislation, and Poland’s government has pledged to reverse the law.

“I’m quite convinced there is a direct link between the two,” Rosensaft said.

Pope Francis also proclaimed “a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic,” emphasizing how much Jews and Catholics have a “common root” and share much as a consequence. Rosensaft saw Pope Francis’ commitment to these words also fulfilled in the Vatican’s refusal last month to give Nazi war criminal and Holocaust-denier Erich Priebke a public Church funeral.

Priebke — who spent nearly 50 years in the Holy Father’s native Argentina after escaping in 1946 from a British prison camp — had never publicly repented of his role in the murder of Jews and Italian civilians, following his extradition to Italy in 1996 and his subsequent conviction and sentence of life imprisonment for his war crimes. The breakaway Society of St. Pius X subsequently offered to give Priebke the requiem Mass his lawyer wanted — the day before the 70th anniversary of the Nazi roundup of 1,000 Roman Jews sent to die in Auschwitz — but an outraged mob blocked the casket from ever entering the SSPX chapel in the Albano Laziale suburb, and local authorities canceled the funeral.

Gary Krupp, a Jewish leader who runs the Pave the Way Foundation, said Pope Francis’ treatment of the unrepentant Priebke was consistent with the actions taken by Pius XII against unrepentant Nazis.

“No priest was allowed to officiate at their funerals,” he said.

Pius XII’s Legacy

Krupp said he believed Pope Francis will also be the pope to draw Jews and Catholics even closer together by vindicating the legacy of Pope Pius XII.

The subject of Pius XII is sensitive for many Jews. Rabbi Skorka told the Register that both his mother’s and father’s families lost many family members during the Holocaust, and he himself questions why Pius XII did not publically denounce Hitler’s extermination of the Jews. However, he said that revealing the Vatican Secret Archives will be key.

“From my first perception — take into account that I lost the main part of my mother’s family and my father’s family during the Shoah — my first feeling is: How can it be that [Pius XII] did not shout out his criticisms of the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews?” Rabbi Skorka said. “But let us have the documents do the talking.”

Krupp said he himself grew up hating Pius XII intensely, until his own research convinced him 180 degrees in the opposite direction. His own organization has documented more than 76,000 pages pointing to Pius XII as the man most responsible for “saving 80% of the Jews in Italy.”

Krupp said opening the Secret Archives will be decisive and that Pope Francis — whom he described as “very pro-Pius XII” — is eager to see them opened at last. Krupp said the cataloging of the Secret Archives is in the final stages.

“Pius XII is going to wind up being the greatest hero of World War II,” Krupp predicted. “We’re going to find that the Jewish world was very lucky to have this man as pope during World War II.”

Embracing in Israel, Forging the Future

Pope Francis intends to visit the Holy Land next spring, and with him will be his longtime friend Rabbi Skorka. The two leaders plan to embrace each other in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall and will go together to Bethlehem, in the Palestinian territories, to visit Jesus’ birthplace.

But the gesture could also send a very powerful message for dialogue and peace for not only Israel and Palestine, but for the whole Middle East, which has been the epicenter of so much violence and conflict.

“That will have a very positive effect on the region,” said Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, North America.

Ehrenberg said she is looking forward to the deepening of cooperation between Catholics and Jews that Pope Francis has been encouraging by word and example. She said the recent summit between Jewish and Catholic leaders in Madrid, and the joint declaration they signed, reflected that.

“We need to speak up together” in addressing common challenges, including religious freedom, she said. “Both of us are also seeing a falloff in the commitment of youth in religious traditions and religious observation.”

Ehrenberg said, “I think Pope Francis will provide leadership here and have a powerful influence, because of his openness and courageousness in addressing these realities.”

Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer

National Catholic Register 11./8/13

Jews and Catholics face the challenges of religion in contemporary society

In Uncategorized on 2014/08/22 at 12:00 AM

Vatican City (VIS) – The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC), the official forum for ongoing dialogue between the Holy See´s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), held its 22nd meeting in Madrid, Spain, from 13-16 October, 2013. The meeting was co-chaired by Betty Ehrenberg, chair of IJCIC and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The theme of the meeting was “Challenges for Religion in Contemporary Society”, and at the end the participants published a joint declaration that touched upon several important points:“1. Our Shared HeritageJews and Christians share the heritage of the biblical testimony of God’s relationship with the human family throughout history. Our Scriptures bear witness to both individuals and the people as a whole being called, taught, guided and protected by Divine Providence. In light of this sacred history, Catholic and Jewish participants in the meeting responded to emerging opportunities and difficulties facing religious belief and practice in today’s world.

2. Religious Freedom

Encouraged in our work by Pope Francis’ expressions of his concern for the universal welfare of all, particularly the poor and the oppressed, we share the belief in the God-given dignity of every individual. This requires that each person be accorded full freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression individually and institutionally, privately and publicly. We deplore the abuse of religion, the use of religion for political ends. Both Jews and Catholics condemn persecution on religious grounds.

3. Persecution of Christians

The ILC recommends to the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and IJCIC to work together on situations involving the persecution of Christian minorities worldwide as they arise; to call attention to these problems and to support efforts to guarantee full citizenship to all citizens regardless of religious or ethnic identity in the Middle East and beyond. Further, we encourage efforts to promote the well-being of minority Christian and Jewish communities throughout the Middle East.

4. The Rise of Anti-Semitism

As Pope Francis has repeatedly said, ‘a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite’. We encourage all religious leaders to continue to be a strong voice against this sin. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of ‘Nostra Aetate’ in 2015 is a privileged moment in which to reaffirm its condemnation of anti-Semitism. We urge that anti-Semitic teachings be eliminated from preaching and textbooks everywhere in the world. Similarly, any expression of anti-Christian sentiment is equally unacceptable.

5. Education

We recommend that all Jewish and Catholic seminaries include instruction about “Nostra Aetate” and the subsequent documents of the Holy See implementing the Council’s Declaration in their curricula. As a new generation of Jewish and Catholic leaders arises, we underscore the profound ways that ‘Nostra Aetate’ changed the relationship between Jews and Catholics. It is imperative that the next generation embrace these teachings and ensure that they reach every corner of the world.

In the face of these challenges, we Catholics and Jews renew our commitment to educate our own respective communities in the knowledge of and respect for each other”.

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Pius XII knew he would be misunderstood, theologian says

In 13 History on 2014/05/30 at 12:00 AM


Vatican City, Sep 26, 2013 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest who knew Pius XII personally and had access to “every strip of paper” in the Vatican archives says the pontiff believed he did the right thing during the holocaust despite knowing he would be questioned.

Ninety year-old Father Peter Gumpel, a former professor at the Gregorio University in Rome for 25 years, was simultaneously appointed as a Theological Consultant to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and as Assistant Postulator General.

He was personally acquainted with Pope Pius XII, and has met every pontiff since with the exception of John Paul I.

The work that Fr. Gumpel was assigned as a theological consultant was to “examine everything” related to Pius XII and other causes of interest, and to present the information in a “historically and theologically accurate way to the congregation before they start to discuss it,” he told CNA in a Sept. 17 interview.

The cause of canonization for Pius XII was overseen by Fr. Gumpel, who was in charge of the research needed in order to prove the late pope’s heroic virtue.

“I had absolute access to every strip of paper that is in the Vatican archives,” he said. “The period of Pius the XII is not yet accessible to scholars, but as a responsible investigating judge, I had to see everything.”

The priest added that he studied “about 100,000 pages” in documents and correspondence in the life of the pontiff.

In his research, Fr. Gumpel confirmed that there were already some who opposed the Pope’s course of action during the Nazi persecution of World War II in the 1940s, and that Pius XII himself was aware of it.

The late pontiff faced criticism then and in subsequent decades for being perceived as silent or inactive in the face of the holocaust. It is believed, however, that the Pope chose to help the victimized secretly so as not to provoke increased persecution by the Nazis.

“He knew that some of his measures were not pleasing to everybody,” Fr. Gumpel noted, and that “at a certain moment he said, ‘I know that what I am going to do will not be pleasing to everybody, but I am going to do it because in conscience I feel that it is my duty to do it.’”

“So he was aware that there would be opposition. It is an attitude that any person with higher responsibility has to take.”

Fr. Gumpel recalled how some during the time of the war thought that the Church should publicly react against the holocaust, but stressed that this “was totally useless.”

“Anytime anybody made a public protest, it aggravated the situation.”

“If you find documents from the Polish episcopacy during the occupation of the Germans of Poland,” he said, it was clearly pleaded “‘don’t speak out, it doesn’t help anything, it only makes things worse.’”

“The same happened in the German resistance movement against Hitler. They said, ‘For Heaven’s sake, don’t say anything because it will make the situation, the persecution will be even worse.’”

Pius XII, he emphasized, “knew that this in the future would be misunderstood.”

“People who had no responsibility in government, who had never dealt with a situation like this, would not understand it,” Fr. Gumpel said, quoting a Jewish lawyer named Kempner who defended Pope Pius XII by saying “the only thing to do was to help people in secrecy as much as possible.”

Another aspect of Pius XII that Fr. Gumpel believes is “very much unknown to people,” is the pastoral heart of the late pope.

“He was always presented as a diplomat,” Fr. Gumpel said, referencing the late pope’s natural gifting and service in this area.

The priest explained that Pius XII had been a bright student, and was asked by a high-ranking official of the Secretary of State on behalf of the Pope to come into the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

However, “he wanted to become a parish priest,” Fr. Gumpel noted, stressing that Pope Pius XII was always primarily concerned with the care of souls. He “didn’t want to become a diplomat,” but did so out of obedience.

Other causes for canonization under Father Gumpel’s jurisdiction that have received decree on the diversity of virtues — meaning, their heroic virtue has been proved — are Mother Katherine Drexel and Cardinal John Henry Newman.

St. Isidore to the Rescue

In 13 History on 2011/06/07 at 1:28 PM

Anti-Semitism lurks in every society: good or evil, Christian or pagan. Why? Because Satan will always hate the people God once chose for His very own.  The hatred of Christians for Jew and of Jews for Christians is one of Satan’s works.  It has destroyed men who could have have been saints and turned ordinary humans into monsters.

In late Visigothic Spain there was a persecution of the Jews.  St. Isidore of Seville warned Spain’s Catholic people against this spiritual disease when he saw it beginning to infect them.  At first they listened to him.

St. Isidore presided at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, prohibited the forced conversions of Jews and condemned the king for instigating such a procedure.  However, not even three years after Isidore’s death, a new king prohibited the public practice of Judaism.  Sadly, the bishops did not object.

By the time of the Twelfth Council of Toledo, the king instigated the proclamation of twenty-eight laws against the Jews.  To remain in Spain, Jews were required to be baptized. Circumcision was punished by castration.

Spain ignored Isidore.  The Moors invaded and occupied it for 700 years.

Phillip II of Spain expelled the Jews (Sephardic), who were the middle class. Interestingly, Spain lost her enormous empire and stagnated commercially until the descendants of the Jews he had expelled returned after Castro took over Cuba to where the Sephardic Jews had migrated.

History has shown that nations that persecute the Jews suffer unforeseen consequences. The Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews (Diaspora).  Nazi Germany almost self-annihilated because of the Holocaust.

The Russian Czars inaugurated pogroms against the Jews and got Lenin, Stalin and 70 years of Communism.  Eastern Europe’s cruel treatment of the Jews gave them decades of oppression under Communism.

Actions have consequences; no doubt about it.  Some way, some day, payment is due.

Yassir Arafat told the women of Palestine to bear twelve sons, giving ten to the cause and keeping two for themselves.  The resulting increase in the birthrate in Palestine and elsewhere throughout the Moslem lands has led to a tremendous surplus of well-educated but unemployed young men who you have been seen on the daily news protesting in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and it could sink the Arab ship.

Beware Moslems!  As Santayana said: “Those who do not know history will be condemned to relive it.” The Jews are God’s chosen people, no doubt about it.  Heed St. Isidore.