When Pope Francis penned his theological dictum, "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel) calling for new levels of support for Jews and Judaism he obviously was not contemplating his 2014 pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The cost of those pontifical proclamations has come due, but after his time in the Palestinian Territories it has become clear that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
When it was published, the Pope's book generated much enthusiasm among Catholics, and Jews as well. "We cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God. It confirms the continued contribution of Divine truth that comes through the treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word," he wrote.
In the book, Pope Francis went on to express sorrow for the painful history of Christian persecution of the Jews. He emphatically denounced the two theological positions which have resulted in Jew-hatred for centuries: Replacement theology and Deicide. The former maintains that the Jews have been "replaced" by the Church, the covenants and promises in the Bible no longer apply to Jews, and so they have no claim to the land. Deicide holds all Jews responsible for the crime of killing God through the crucifixion of Jesus.
Early Church figures like Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and John Chrysostom used these theological aberrations to spread hatred of Jews throughout the towns and villages beholden to the Church. The result was Crusades, pogroms and Inquisition that destroyed hundreds of thousands of Jews.
Both of these positions were renounced by Catholics through the teachings of Nostra Aetate, the Declaration of the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, written in 1965. In his book, Pope Francis declared emphatically that he, too, embraces a renewed Catholic understanding of the Jewish people.
The new pontiff has been working hard to improve a disgraced image of a defamed Church. But the Mideast will not be won over with politically correct speeches or papal public relations. The stakes here are too high. Palestinians and their Christian supporters have resurrected the old theological poisons. Frustrated with their inability to defeat Israel through warfare and terrorism, they are calling Zionism racism and the Jewish people's return to an ancestral homeland anathema. Support for Palestinians, they claim, is true biblical "justice" while the Jewish people's covenant with God was canceled long ago and Jews have no right to settle their land.
While in Bethlehem this week, the Pope had nothing to say regarding the foundational teachings of Palestinian Rev. Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theological Center, who declared, "Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."
The Pope failed to challenge the ideas being promoted by Ateek and his ilk that turn Jesus into a Palestinian, the Palestinians into Jesus, and the Jews once again practicing deicide.
Why didn't the head of 1.2 billion Catholics decry the Palestinian Christian Kairos Document with its denial of any Jewish place in the Holy Land? Instead of denouncing their politically motivated Replacement Theology on his visit to Bethlehem, we find him praying to bring down the security wall, a move that would reopen the gates of hell upon Israel.
The author of "Evangelii Gaudium" is certainly aware of Israel's enemies resurrecting these old anti-Semitic ideas intended to cut off the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. Christian advocates of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement are using Replacement Theology to prove that Jews have no claim to their promised homeland. And this pleasant pope looks like just another puppet of popularity.
Israel marks the end of the neophyte Pope's honeymoon drive. Riding in his new economy compact will only get him so far in this land. Israel is that stumbling stone of exposure revealing the true nature of the man beneath the papal garments.