From the news media:
On the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz, a US rabbi has called on him to remove a Catholic church from the premises of the Nazi death camp. The letter sent from Rabbi Avi Weiss, national president of AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns. Weiss says the presence of the church at the former death camp site is a “clear violation” of a 1987 agreement between Roman Catholic cardinals and Jewish leaders, which he says “stipulates in clear language that ‘there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.’”
Rabbi Weiss is wrong, and the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder is right.
From the news media:
Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau former Nazi death camp in Poland, in what the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said was an important signal to the world.
In a statement Friday, Lauder praised the pontiff, who has forged ever-closer ties between the Catholic Church and Jews since his election in 2013. “Pope Francis is one of the closest allies Jews have today in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred,” Lauder said. “He is a true friend of the Jewish people, a man who reaches out to others and embraces them. Never over the past 2,000 years have Catholic-Jewish relations been better.” The pope’s visit “sends an important signal to the world that this dark chapter must never be forgotten and that the truth about what happened seven decades ago must not be obfuscated,” Lauder added.
The late pontiff John Paul II, who was born in Poland, visited Auschwitz in 1979. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited in 2006. “Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people,” Benedictus said. “I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.”
I am, the author of this post, commenting on Holocaust-related events not as a historian, a rabbi or a spiritual philosopher – I am commenting on these events as a Jew who belong to the community of Holocaust survivors whose extended family lost about 30 people in Holocaust.
Yes, I know the local people who called themselves Christians murdered most of my expended family – yes, mostly locals who followed their dark anti-Semitic inclinations did it. Why? The answer is well known – before the WWII, we had almost no friends among the Christians to defend us the Jews as members of the God’s human community – or even as the people, who created the foundation of Christian faith. It was not our fault that we did not have Christian friends – that is how the history has played itself for the last two millenniums.
However, the WWII and Holocaust, and then Islamic assault on the “infidels” who are mostly the Jews and Christians, created a spiritual environment for spiritual unification of Jews and Christians in a contemporary Judeo-Christian civilization. That is the only way to make future holocausts almost impossible.
Nevertheless, many rabbis still prefer having their communities isolated from the entire Judeo-Christian world and Rabbi Weiss has acted as a sort of their representative. It looks like, those rabbis believe that the Jewish faith is not strong enough to not only survive but also flourish in the presence of other challenging faiths. However, that is contrary to the Torah guidance and the mission of Jewish people as the Chosen.
I am with a non-rabbi Ronald Lauder and with former President of World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman who believe in a strong Jewish faith capable to flourish and advance itself in the Judeo-Christian realm and be spiritually friendly with Christianity and Christian people. That is the only way for creating a better world for everybody and eliminating the possibility of future holocausts.
We the Jews have to encourage the Christian leaders to visit Auschwitz, to pray with us, to create various spiritual Judeo-Christian organizations for fighting anti-Semitism and advancing a framework for building a better world for everybody with everybody.