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More on Pope Benedict XVI's Historical Visit to Israel

Earlier we saw how a Rabbi Wolpe conducted himself in a manner that desecrates God’s Name, here is a different kind of response that reflects the best values of our faith and people that appeared today in the JPost written by the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen:

“On the occasion of your visit to Israel I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you, our most honorable guest, Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives on the altar inside the International Stadium of Amman to celebrate a Holy Mass on Sunday.

I pray that you will continue the work begun by your predecessors, John XXIII and John Paul II, and express your friendship for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

I see in your visit to the Holy Land a declaration that you intend to continue a policy and doctrine that refers to my people as “Our Older Brothers” and “God’s Chosen People,” with whom He entered into an everlasting covenant.

We deeply appreciate this declaration. There is a long, hard and painful history of the relationship between our people, our faith, and the Catholic Church leadership and followers – a history of blood and tears. It is difficult to speak of this relationship without recalling the centuries of persecution of Jews by the Church.

But a new era was ushered in with the cancellation of the replacement theory. In the Second Vatican Council and the Nostra Aetate document, it was made clear that no efforts would be made by the Catholic Church to convert Jews. Rather, the Jewish people should continue the faith of its forefathers as expressed in the Bible and rabbinic literature.

The Jewish people remain a people of God’s covenant, a people chosen by God to give the world the Bible.

Put simply, the Catholic Church accepted the theological principle that Jews need not change their religion to merit redemption. I hope you will take the opportunity during your visit in Israel to reiterate this fact.

In our meeting last month in Rome, you assured me that no one who engages in Holocaust denial can be a member of the Church. You also spoke of how, in Catholic educational institutes across the globe, anti-Semitism would be presented as a crime against God and against man and that Holocaust denial would be denounced.

I do hope now to get your help as a religious leader – as well as the help of the entire free world – to protect, defend and save Israel, the one and only sovereign state of the “People of the Book” from the hands of its enemies.

I am sure that you will use this trip to reiterate these points in public and show your sincerity at a time when media exposure is high and the eyes of the world are upon you. God has given you a unique opportunity.

May I conclude by praying with the famous words taken from the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah, regarding the days to come: “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters over the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)

May we be blessed to have it happen in our own days. Amen!

The writer is chief rabbi of Haifa and co-chairman of the Bilateral Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See.”

POSTSCRIPT:

As the reader can discern from this kind of positive approach, the Chief Rabbi has shown us that Jews and Christians must continue developing and nurturing a positive relationship with the Jewish people. Collectively, we must make the conscious decision to create a new future based on what we share in common. Jews and Christians can write a new page about the importance of reconciliation and everything that it entails.

This concept is not as radical as it may seem, but is enshrined in the pages of Genesis. Brothers must put an end to their sibling rivalry and embrace one another in the spirit of love and fellowship just like Abraham did with Ishmael, as Jacob later did with Esau, and finally–Joseph and his brothers all made peace with one another–could there be a better ending to the book of Genesis?

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