Yesterday, I worried about the new Pope’s commitment to inter-religious dialogue. I based that on CNN’s description of him, which was incomplete. While he has rejected the notion that any other Christian Church has any legitimacy, The New York Times says Jewish Groups Mostly Praise Pope as a Partner:
In his memoirs, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote of being forced into the Nazi youth movement when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory, and of being drafted into the German Army in 1943.
“He’s never denied the past, never hid it,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “His whole life has been atonement for those few years. His whole life is an open book of sensitivity against bigotry and anti-Semitism.”
Mr. Foxman cited a column that Cardinal Ratzinger wrote for L’Osservatore Romano in 2000 attacking Christian complicity in the Holocaust. “It cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians,” the cardinal wrote.
Mr. Foxman said that as a European of the World War II generation, Cardinal Ratzinger would probably be more sensitive to Jewish concerns than many other cardinals who were on the short list for the papacy. Many others expressed similar thoughts.
“This pope, considering his historical experience, will be especially committed to an uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism,” Israel’s foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said in a statement.
There is cause for concern though. The Times continues:
Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun, wrote yesterday on the magazine’s Web site that the cardinal’s criticism of other religions “is a slippery slope toward anti-Semitism and a return to the chauvinistic and triumphalist views that led the church, when it had the power to do so, to develop its infamous crusades and inquisitions.”
Talking about John Paul II and inquisitions was pretty far from the mark, but Benedict XVI is one to keep an eye on. While he gets credit for the Vatican’s recognition of Israel, and for taking the Church to task for its anti-semitism, someone who thinks other Christian churches are “lesser searches for the truth” (quote from the Times) can’t have a higher opinion of Judaism or Islam. He has said that he thinks Buddhism may be the next great threat, on the scale of communism.
I hope for the best for him and from him, but I worry that the Church took a step back when it needs to break new ground.