April 2005

Benedict XVI, New Pope of the Catholic Church

The Conclave of Cardinals consecrated Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI. The new pope is considered a continuer of Pope John Paul II, as regards his identification to the conservative current of Catholicism. The first German Pope of German ascent since the XI-th century has been in charge since 1981 of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Church, an organisms destined to care for theological orthodoxy in Catholicism. As concerns the interreligious area, and especially regarding the relationship with Judaism it is believed that Benedict XVI will continue the Catholic attitude towards Judaism inaugurated by his predecessor John Paul II. In this sense Rabbi David Rosen considers that the then Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible, in his capacity as President of the Pontifical Commission of Biblical Studies, for the wording of the most important document in Judeo-Christian relationships, a paper that underlines the theological centrality of the Jewish People and their Sacred Texts towards the study of Christianism. That paper expresses that the Jewish non acceptance of Jesus as the Redeemer must not be understood as an act of refusal of God but as part of a plan of the Divinity to remind us that the redemption of the whole of Humanity has not been yet fulfilled. Moreover, regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the State of Israel, the contribution of the new Pope has been remarkable. It is to be noted that in recent years Cardinal Ratzinger visited Israel several times and even spoke at a Jewish-Christian Symposium which took place in Jerusalem. The Raoul Wallenberg International Foundation has had the honor of inviting Cardinal Ratzinger -and has repeated this invitation after his election as Pope- to visit the commemorative mural of the Holocaust set up by the Foundation in the Vaterunser Church in Berlin on September 2004.

Great Challenges For the New Pope

The recently elected Pope Benedict XVI will have to face, as religious leader of the Catholic Church, difficult problems that threaten Humanity at the beginning of the Third Millennium. Among other urgent issues, the Vatican must direct the Church regarding the following subjects: Medical and Bioethical affairs regarding abortion, clonation, birth control and euthanasia. Participation in the power of the Church between the Pope, Vatican Burocracy, the bishops and various Catholic Organizations; globalization and its impact on the middle and poor classes; the role of women in a Patriarchal Church that sustains that Jesus did not authorize their ordination; relations with the Islam, Judaism and the other Christian Churches.

Book on the Dialogue Between Religions

Spanish theologian Juan José Tamayo has presented his book ”Fundamentalismo y diálogo entre religiones” (Fundamentalism and Dialogue Between Religions) edited by Trotta, in the Fundación Cives (Cives Foundation) of the Spanish League of Education and Popular Culture. The book analizes interculturism as an antidote for fundamentalism, exploring the relationshipbetween Christianism and Islam. The author is Director of Chair of Theology and Science of Religions in the Carlos III University of Madrid.

A Film About Faith and Heroism

On the 13th of April the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation sponsored the Premiere of the film ”Raoul Wallenberg, Buried Alive” in the City College of New York. The movie, directed By David Harel, reconstructs the history of the young Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who, inspired by an unmovable faith and a undestroyable personal heroism saved more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews from certain death in Nazi extermination camps.

Solemn Burial of Pope John Paul II

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was soon to become Pope Benedict XVI, presided over the mass celebrated on occasion of the burial of Pope John Paul II which included the participation of a large number of cardinals, bishops, priests and an enormous multitude of believers. The religious service was also attended by kings, heads of state, prime ministers and dignitaries of other churches -Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant and Evangelic, as well as representatives of Jewish and Islamic organizations.

Interreligious Prayer in Argentina

The National Meeting for Peace organized by the Argentine Episcopal Commission on Ecumenism held an interreligious celebration on the explanade of the Law School of the National University of Buenos Aires on April 18th, during which pidgeons and balloons with peace messages were released. The Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Ecumenism, Monsignor Justo Laguna affirmed that that meeting ”is permeated by the spirit of Assisi” referring to the meeting that Pope John Paul II held in 1986 with religious leaders from all over the world to elevate a joint prayer for peace. Bishop Laguna spoke at the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in Jerusalem on February 1999, on which occasion he presented, together with Rabbi Mario Rojzman the book ”Todos los caminos conducen a Jerusalem y también a Roma” (All roads lead to Jerusalem and also to Rome).

Conference by Rabbi David Rosen

The Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel has sponsored the conference that Rabbi David Rosen gave on April 14 on the subject ” Unleash thy Vengeance: Confronting Problematic Texts”. The subject expounded upon refers to the Pessach Haggadah text that invokes Divine wrath upon those Gentiles that persecuted Jews throughout History, an issue that was analyzed by Rabbi Rosen from an interreligious point of view.

The Best Pope of all Times

The distinguished Rabbi, Irving Greenberg from New York, former Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, asserted that the late Pope John Paul II was the best pope in History as regards the Jewish People. According to Greenberg, John Paul II established three theological facts of great transcendency: the assertion of Judaism as a religion based upon a valid alliance with the Divinity, the admission that the Holocaust was a theological turning point (combined with the recognition that Christians must repent for having spread out hateful images about Jews throughout the course of History) and the diplomatic recognition of the State of Israel.

Interreligious Meeting in Humble Suburbs of Jerusalem

Three organizations have begun a pilot project to promote interrreligious dialogue in humble suburbs of Jerusalem. They are the associations ”Spring for Democratic Education” and ”Interreligious Encounter” and the foundation ”Relief Friendship”, who will try to bring together groups from different religions by means of the teaching of their respective religious texts, encouraging joint study and shared liturgical practices, without causing a loss of identity of each participating group. On April 13th, the first meeting took place in the neighborhood of Guilo, in the Southern district of Jerusalem, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Translation: María Lía Macchi