By EUGENE KORN
June 9, 2006
During the Second Vatican Council discussions in Rome in the 1960s, Jewish leaders wanted the Catholic Church to make statements denouncing antisemitism, apologizing for the church's role in the Holocaust and recognizing the State of Israel. The Catholics, however, were most interested in discussing God and Scripture. Jews talked politics, while Catholics talked theology. Eventually sustained dialogue narrowed the communication gap, and the results were Nostra Aetate and subsequent salutary documents, all of which were a constructive blend of politics and theology.
Unfortunately, this communications gap continues to cause problems. Recently some Jewish leaders issued criticisms of Pope Benedict XVI for his failure to focus on antisemitism and Jewish martyrs during his visit to Auschwitz. Yet these leaders appeared to miss the significance of what Benedict did say. While he was at the extermination camp, the pope made a number of stunning theological statements about Jews and Judaism that hold enormous positive value.