Eye View of the News
JOHN PAUL II “BLESSED” BY THE RABBIS
- On January 18, John Paul II received about 160
rabbis from around the world at the Vatican. They went there
to celebrate the change that Vatican II made in Catholic teaching
regarding Judaism, and to pay official homage to this Pope for
his support of Jews and Judaism. At the climax of the meeting,
three rabbis carried out a religious ritual to “bless”
The information I transcribe regarding this encounter is from
news reports by CatolicaNet (January 18, 2005, online)
and the National Catholic Reporter (January 20, 2005,
“Word from Rome,” online).
Appraising the meaning of the meeting, rabbi Jack Bemporad,
director of the Center for Inter-Religious Understanding (CIU),
declared, “For the first time in History, rabbis from
all branches of Judaism met in Rome to thank a Pontiff.”
Among the important rabbis present were the president of the
college of rabbis of New York, the ex-chief rabbi of Europe
and France, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, and the chief rabbi
Bemporad emphasized the post-Vatican II change of position,
saying, “In the world’s History, the last 40 years
will be regarded as the most revolutionary and important in
Recalling some of the ground-breaking landmarks, he pointed
out that John Paul II was the first Pope in History to visit
a synagogue; this Pontiff also established diplomatic relations
with Israel, and asked forgiveness for the combat the Church
has always made against Judaism (CatolicNet).
This was the largest papal audience ever with a group of Jews.
Normally when the World Jewish Congress or the Anti-Defamation
League visits John Paul II, the delegation is composed of no
more than 15 to 20 persons.
During his trip to Israel John Paul II promoted an encounter
with the rabbis of Jerusalem.
Inside the Vatican, February 2003
Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz from Connecticut said that while some
Catholics "don't know" about the revolution that happened since
Vatican II, many Jews "don't believe it." In that light, Ehrenkranz
said, the January 18 audience was an opportunity for Jewish
leaders to publicly acknowledge that the transformation is real.
Rabbi Gary Krupp, who initiated the plan to bring 160 rabbis
to the Vatican, praised John Paul II in a solemn speech: "You
have defended the Jewish people at every opportunity, as a priest
in Poland and in your pontificate." He recalled John Paul's
1986 visit to the Roman synagogue, the first by a Pope since
the time of the early church, and his 2000 trip to Israel.
Enigmatically, Krupp also added that John Paul II embodies the
"spirit of Aaron, the high priest of ancient Israel."
After he finished his speech, three rabbis blessed John Paul
in Hebrew and English. One part of the ceremony was open to
the press, another was closed. No reports about the latter (National
Why were these rabbis given such a spectacular gathering at
the Vatican? The official explanation was that the event celebrated
the 40th anniversary of the approval of the conciliar declaration
Nostra aetate, which took a progressivist approach regarding
Jews and Muslims.
I don’t believe that this is the real reason. First,
because the 40th anniversary of Nostra aetate will occur
only on October 24, 2005, too distant a date to generate a special
festivity in January. Second, because the week of January
16-22, when this audience was granted, has been dedicated to
Catholic-Jewish relations. It seems to me the real reason lies
in the background of this fact. Let me explain.
On January 20, 1842, Alphonse Ratisbonne, a young French Jew
from an important banking family in Strasbourg and close relation
to the Rothschilds, witnessed an apparition of Our Lady and
immediately converted from Judaism to the Catholic Church. His
conversion, which took place in Rome, represented a spectacular
victory of Our Lady over Judaism that had enormous repercussions
in Italy, France, and the whole Catholic world. The devotion
of Our Lady of the Miracle was born on that occasion and the
Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, where the miracle
took place, became a center of special prayer for the conversion
of the Jews (for the whole story, click
Alphonse Ratisbonne and his brother, Theodore, who had converted
also, became priests and founded a new religious institution
– the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion – dedicated
to the conversion of Jews from their perfidious religion to
the Catholic Church.
Fifty years later, on January 17, 1892, the Vatican Capitolo
granted the special honor for the picture of Madonna del
Miracolo (Our Lady of the Miracle), which was crowned as
This Vatican act was an endorsement of a growing popular devotion
to Our Lady of the Miracle, an indirect approval of the commemoration
of the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, and a blessing of
the general aspiration for the conversion of the Jews. Since
that time, every year the week including the two dates of January
17 and 20 was dedicated to celebrate these events.
As should be expected, after Vatican II, the progressivist Holy
Sees of Paul VI and John Paul II froze those festivities. But
not only this. When I visited Rome in January 1993, I saw that
the week had been re-directed to commemorate the precise opposite.
That is to say, there was no more mention of conversion of Jews,
and everything was designed to celebrate Catholic-Jewish inter-confessional
dialogue. Throughout Rome, ecumenical events were scheduled
with this aim. These inter-confessional commemorations have
continued up to the present time.
The 2003 Jewish award of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
is offered to John Paul II by rabbi Marvin Hier.
The Catholic World Report, January
Therefore, the January 18 audience granted to the large assembly
of rabbis made up part of the week of Catholic-Jewish dialogue
I wonder if in this last January event, we didn’t take
another step on the road of destruction of the traditional Catholic
position. That is, it was an opportunity for the Jews to state
openly and officially that Judaism is the “true”
religion, without any need for conversion to the Catholic Church.
Judaism would be so “true” that 160 rabbis came
to Rome to proclaim this and “bless” the Head of
the Catholic Church with their sinister rituals.
In practical terms, the rabbis would have gone to the Vatican
to revenge the conversion of Ratisbonne, to deny that he needed
any such thing, and to present the apparition of Our Lady of
the Miracle as irrelevant and foolish. The whole episode represented,
in my opinion, a great symbolic outrage to Holy Mother Church
propitiated by the present day Pope.
The conversion of Ratisbonne took place 163 years ago. Was the
number of rabbis who visited the Vatican – around 160
– meant to match the number of years that have passed
since it occurred? I don’t have data to make any serious
conclusion about that.