Monday, October 06, 2008

Enter the Rabbi

At this hour, the Synod is still being led by the afternoon-long presentation of the chief rabbi of Haifa Shear-Yashuv Cohen -- the first Jewish speaker ever to address the body.

Yet with the gathering convening in the run-up to Thursday's 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII -- a milestone that, this year, just so happens to coincide with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and Judaism's most sacrosanct observance -- Cohen said in an interview published this morning that, had he known of the confluence, he mightn't have come:
"We feel that the late pope (Pius) should have spoken up much more strongly than he did," Cohen, 80, said in an interview hours before he was due to address the gathering of Catholic bishops from around the world.

Cohen said that in his speech he planned to make an indirect reference to Jewish disappointment about Pius as well as an appeal to all religious leaders to denounce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Last month Pope Benedict forcefully defended Pius, saying he "spared no effort" on behalf of Jews during World War II.

Some Jews maintain Pius did not do enough to save Jews while the Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to help because more direct intervention would have worsened the situation.

"He may have helped in secrecy many of the victims and many of the refugees but the question is 'could he have raised his voice and would it have helped or not?'" Cohen said.

"We, as the victims, feel yes. I am not empowered by the families of the millions of deceased to say 'we forget, we forgive,'" said Cohen, who is chief rabbi of Haifa in Israel....

"I did not know (the anniversary commemorations) happened during the same meeting. If I had known ... I might have refrained from coming because we feel that the pain is still here," Cohen said.

"I have to make it very clear that we, the rabbis, the leadership of the Jewish people, cannot as long as the survivors still feel painful agree that this leader of the Church in a time of crisis should be honored now. It is not our decision. It pains us. We are sorry it is being done," he said.

Cohen said only God knows if Pius spoke out enough against the Holocaust: "God is the judge ... he knows the truth."
The Pope will celebrate a memorial Mass for his wartime predecessor in St Peter's on Thursday's anniversary.

SVILUPPO: And at his turn in the Aula, Cohen followed through with the (unscripted) repeat of his wire comments:
“We cannot forget the sad and painful fact of how many, including great religious leaders, didn’t raise a voice in the effort to save our brethren, but chose to keep silent and help secretly,” said Cohen.

“We cannot forgive and forget, and we hope you understand our pain, our sorrow,” Cohen said, speaking to an audience of some 253 cardinals, archbishops and bishops, as well as Benedict XVI.

Cohen never mentioned Pius XII by name, though in context the reference was obvious....

Cohen also issued a biting, though once again indirect, swipe at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Cohen referred to the “terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East” in a recent speech at the United Nations. Cohen said these “false and malicious accusations, the threats and anti-Semitic incitement” cannot help but remind Jews of the Holocaust....

Cohen called upon Catholic leaders to “raise your voice, so together with the help of free world defend, we can protect and save Israel from the hands of our enemies.”

“What happened once should not happen again,” Cohen said. “My being here makes me feel that we can expect your help, and I am sure your message will be listened to by influential people all over the world.”
PHOTO: Reuters