However, there's an unsurprising uproar over Father Cantalamessa's homily, delivered on Good Friday at the Vatican. Much of what's being written and said, takes him to task for comparing the treatment the Vatican is currently experiencing to the Holocaust. Let's take that one off the table at the outset. He never mentioned the Holocaust and unless you do some creative reading between the lines, it just ain't there.
That being said, the remarks he did make, in an apparent effort at easing tensions between Jews and Catholics* come off as utterly clueless and counterproductive. At the end of his homily, he quotes from a letter he received from an unidentified "Jewish friend". I had a little difficulty finding a decent translation of his remarks, so I'm going to trust this one I found on The National Catholic Register. Here's the relevant portion.
By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover which is the ancestor and matrix within which it was formed. This pushes us to direct a thought to our Jewish brothers. They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms. I received in this week the letter of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.
He said: “I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism. Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world (and there are many) share these sentiments of brotherhood. Our Passover and yours are undoubtedly different, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter.”
My problem is that I'm left having to doubt one of three things:
-the existence of Father Cantalamessa's Jewish friend,
-the Jewishness of Father Catalamessa's Jewish friend,
-or the perspicacity of Father Catalamessa's Jewish friend.
1. Stating the obvious, Catalamessa doesn't identify this friend. Who is the guy? Is there anything about him that gives him an iota of authority? Who is he to represent the "many in the Jewish World"?
2. The letter talks about "...attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful..." Is it just me or is the word "faithful", in this context, a term of self-identification. Catholics and Muslims use the term faithful to distinguish between themselves and everybody else -- presumably the faithless. I don't see a Jew using a term that carries the connotation that he's proclaiming himself an infidel.
3. Then he goes on to discuss "the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism". Those sound to me like the words of an apologist. Please tell me just what are the less shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.
I've read that the Vatican is distancing itself from Catamessa's remarks, but not disowning or contradicting them. I understand the instinct to "circle the wagons", but recent protestations of victimhood aren't going to prove useful as a strategy.
Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, who was host to Benedict at the Rome synagogue in January on a visit that helped calm waters after a year of tensions, laughed in seeming disbelief when asked about Father Cantalamessa’s remarks.
“With a minimum of irony, I will say that today is Good Friday, when they pray that the Lord illuminate our hearts so we recognize Jesus,” Rabbi Di Segni said, referring to a prayer in the traditional Catholic liturgy calling for the conversion of the Jews. “We also pray that the Lord illuminate theirs.”
*Last week, the center-left daily newspaper La Repubblica , without attribution, that “certain Catholic circles” believed the criticism of the church stemmed from “a New York ‘Jewish lobby.”