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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Pope Benedict at Auschwitz -- Jewish reaction: You'll never believe this, but they disagree among themselves! Certain tropes are predictable; e.g., Abe Foxman going Christian-baiting, and others making clear that anything short of an assumption of direct responsibility for the Holocaust by the Church will forever be "not enough." (Review of European editorials here; Daily Telegraph, fairly sound, here.) Others, though, are more interesting, as in this story from Catholic News Service:
Meanwhile, the Jewish-born former archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, whose mother died at Auschwitz, described the visit as "one of the most important moments" of his life.

"As a priest, Christian, Jew and son who lost a mother, I think the pope's words were deep, truthful and sincere," Cardinal Lustiger told Polish TV. "They were exactly what should be said in this place, where we witnessed history being made today."

The cardinal's half-brother, Arno Lustiger, who lives in Germany and lost his father and brothers at the camp, told KAI: "As a Jewish nonbeliever, I value the Christian perspective which can find hope in the face of such evil. Frankly speaking, I haven't matured to this yet. I still feel a pain which simply cannot be forgotten."
* Text of the Holy Father's speech
* American Papist: The Great Poland Post of 2006
* Against the Grain: Pope Benedict, Auschwitz, and the Nature of Anti-Semitism
* John Allen's analysis. I know it's in the Reporter, but it's good anyway. Excerpt:

In a sense, Benedict's Auschwitz speech marks a turning point in post-Auschwitz Christian theology, which in the last 60 years has tended to take Christian guilt for complicity in the Holocaust as its point of departure.

Jurgen Moltmann, for example, famously argued for a theology of "divine vulnerability," in part because he felt earlier triumphal understandings of God did not adequately predispose Christians to solidarity with victims of the Nazis; Johann Baptist Metz urged a new spirit of discipleship, based on the observation that too many Christians failed to follow the example of Christ during the war.

Without denying that the Holocaust was often implemented by professed Christians, Benedict argued that at a deeper level, Christianity and Judaism both represented systems of thought that the Nazis instinctively understood must be destroyed, because without God and God's moral law there is no bulwark against totalitarianism, or against evil.

Benedict thus offered a new touchstone for Christian reflection on Auschwitz -- not guilt, but a profound sense of the starkness of the choice facing humanity: God or the abyss.

Hat-tip re John Allen: Catholic Friends of Israel.

Interestingly, the Holy Father's linkage between anti-Semitism and anti-Christianism is precisely what is most viciously held against him in this column, the thrust of which seems to be: either admit it was really the Church wot done it, or stay away and don't horn in on our copyright-protected suffering. Widespread adoption of this attitude would be a grave setback for Catholic-Jewish relations.