In stark contrast to the bishops who recently used a Vatican synod to blame Israel for oppression of Christians in the Middle East and suggest that the Jews have no claim to that land, Pope Benedict XVI has once again publicly affirmed his warm feelings for both the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
The much-anticipated book “Light of the World - the Pope, the Church and Signs of the Times” will released this week, and is touted as the first ever “personal and direct interview” with a pope.
Conducted by German journalist Peter Seewald, the interview touches extensively on Israel and Catholic relations to the Jews.
The pope reiterates that since his earliest days of seminary he has recognized the “intrinsic unity of the Old and the New Testament,” insisting that “we can read the New Testament only together with what preceded it, otherwise, we would completely fail to understand it.”
But Benedict goes further than that, stressing that the Children of Israel, the Jews, remain the “fathers in faith” for all Christians. The pope said he stopped calling the Jews “our elder brothers” because in Jewish tradition the “elder brother” is traditionally the one rejected, such as in the story of Esau and Jacob.
The pope goes on to speak glowingly of his 2009 visit to Israel, where he was especially touched by the warm reception he received from Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose own father was brutally murdered in the Nazi Holocaust.
In the interview, Benedict does not shy away from admitting that mistakes have been made in many of the Vatican’s dealings, including with Israel and the Jews, but that he is determined to set things straight.
Many Israelis and Christian supporters of Israel are still hoping he will use the aforementioned assault on Israel during the recent synod of Middle East bishops to finally clarify the Catholic Church’s position regarding the continued validity of Israel’s divine birthright in the region.