.- Many have praised the papacy of John Paul II for the tremendous strides it made in bridging the divide between the world’s Catholic and Jewish communities, and, in the days following the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Jews are expressing hope that the new shepherd of the Catholic Church will continue this work. Gary Krupp, president of Pave the Way Foundation, a New York non-profit devoted to religious understanding, was reported by JTA, saying that, “As far as Jewish people are concerned, Cardinal Ratzinger is a friend.”
“He is going to be as effective, if not more, than John Paul II” in furthering Catholic-Jewish relations. “He’s not going to backtrack. I think he’s going to be advancing these causes even further.”
As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger was instrumental in the publication of ‘Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past’, which dealt with past errors in dealing with Jews, and ‘The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures.’
“He”, said Rabbi Israel Singer, head of the World Jewish Congress, “is the architect of the policy that John Paul II fulfilled with regard to relations with the Jews. He is the architect of the ideological policy to recognize, to have full relations with Israel.”
“He was the ideologist behind the last pope — the theologist and the ideologist,” Singer noted.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that, “Israel is hopeful that under this new papacy, we will continue to move forward in Vatican-Israel relations and we are sure that considering the background of this new pope, he, like his predecessor, will be a strong voice against anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
On Wednesday, Sam Ser published an article in the ‘Jerusalem Post’ responding to charges of Pope Benedict’s Nazi involvement during his youth, and anti-semitism.
He wrote that, “If [Ratzinger] were truly a Nazi sympathizer, then it would undoubtedly have become evident during the past 60 years. Yet throughout his service in the church, Ratzinger has distinguished himself in the field of Jewish-Catholic relations.”
The young Ratzinger was briefly enrolled in the Hitler youth Army in his home country of Germany while duty was compulsory and would have faced death otherwise. He later deserted the army, risking his life once again.
In a letter to Riccardo Di Sengi, Head Rabbi of Rome this week, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “I entrust to the help of the Most High the continuance of our dialogue and the reinforcement of our collaboration with the sons and daughters of the Jewish people."