Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The New Pope

At midday, EST, a new Catholic Pope was chosen. This was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, to be known as Pope Benedict XVI.

I'm not sure how to feel about it.

I'm not Catholic anymore, so in that sense who is the new pope is irrelevant to me, but as a Jew, who is the head of the 1-billion strong Catholic Church is of a certain interest. John Paul II was not perfect, but he made some good strides in bandaging the deep wounds that separated Catholics and Jews, starting with the whole issue of the death of Jesus, and going all the way to the inaction of the Vatican during the Holocaust. His apologies were not perfect nor complete, but they were a great step. Now we get as his successor a man who was the head of the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (you may know it by its more popular name, the Inquisition) and a man who, in his youth, was a member of the Hitler Youth, and who served in the German army during WWII.

Granted, Ratzinger was part of the Hitler Youth when it was compulsory for every German boy to be a part of it, and I will not condemn him for that. He also served in a German Anti-aircraft unti protecting a BMW factory, though he says he never fired a shot. He later managed to get out of the army upon ordination. One cannot help but contrast John Paul's history of anti-Nazi actions, taken at great personal peril. And it is true that John Paul named Ratzinger to his post as head of the Inquisition, but let's not forget it is Ratzinger who took to the job all to well, defending the orthodoxy like a pitbull (an internal issue, so irrelevant to me), and authoring/co-authoring/supporting official homilies and statements in which the Catholic Church is named as the only source of true redemption.

It remains to wait and see what happens now. I am all for giving Ratzinger, or Benedict, the benefit of the doubt and see what he does as pope. But I cannot help but keep all the above information in the back of my mind, and hope that the Catholic Church doesn't de-evolve some 500 years to the time of the Holy Inquisition.

May Hashem help us all.

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