World View: Pope Francis Visits Mideast to Reconcile with Jews, Orthodox, and Muslims

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com
  • Pope Francis visits Mideast to urge freedom of religion
  • The schism of the Orthodox and the heresy of the Protestants
  • Pope Francis's visit also commemorates forgiveness of Jews

Pope Francis visits Mideast to urge freedom of religion

Pope Francis visited Jordan on Saturday where he asked for freedom of religion for everyone. On Sunday, he'll move on to the Palestinian territories, give the nod to the state of Palestine, and then move on to Jerusalem, where he'll meet with Orthodox and Jewish leaders.

In Jordan, he denounced arms dealers who are bringing misery to the Syrian civil war. He had an emotional meeting with refugees from Syria and Iraq who have fled to Jordan. He prayed to God: 

"Convert those who seek war, those who make and sell weapons!

We all want peace, but looking at the tragedy of war, looking at the wounded, seeing so many people who left their homeland who were forced to go away, I ask, 'Who sells weapons to these people to make war?'" he asked. "This is the root of evil, the hatred, the love of money."

The Pope particularly took note of violence against Christian communities, forcing many to flee the region. He encouraged those who had decided to remain in the region. AP

The schism of the Orthodox and the heresy of the Protestants

While the Protestant Reformation is considered to be a heresy in the Catholic Church, the split between the Roman (Catholic) and Byzantine (Orthodox) churches is generally called a "schism" because there are no serious doctrinal differences separating the churches. From the early days, there were always several branches of the Catholic Church, the two most important being the Western / Roman branch and the Eastern / Greek branch centered in Byzantium (later Constantinople, and even later Istanbul). But, like a married couple living apart, they developed differences that eventually could not be reconciled and which led to estrangement. The Romans couldn't speak Greek, and the Greeks couldn't speak Latin. Each developed rites that were strange to the other. They had joint meetings and councils, but they couldn't agree on policies and couldn't understand each other anyway. The schism officially began on July 16, 1054, when Rome excommunicated a Greek patriarch, Caerularius.

For the Greek Orthodox, the seminal moment in their relationship with the Catholics came with the Crusades. In 1204, along the way to fighting the Muslims, the Crusades sacked Constantinople, starving and murdering its citizens and plundering the Church's treasures accumulated over the centuries. The deed was capped by placing a prostitute on the Emperor's throne at the church of St. Sophia, at that time the most beautiful church in Christendom. This moment is burned into the psyches of Orthodox Christians.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem for the purpose of healing the schism and uniting the Churches. It was the first meeting of the leaders of the split church since 1054. In 2001, Pope John Paul visited Athens and encountered large anti-Catholic protests. He apologized for the sacking of Constantinople and made a plea for forgiveness.

So now the official purpose of Pope Francis's Mideast trip is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 meeting. Francis will meet Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He's still the Patriarch of Constantinople, even though the name of the city was changed to Istanbul after the Moslems conquered it in 1453. They will meet Sunday at the spot where Jesus is believed to be buried.

By the way, if my mother were alive today, she would be furious at all this. She loved the Catholic Church and often attended services there (because they're considerably shorter than the Greek Orthodox services), but she is quite clear that the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox are, in her words, "completely useless to each other."

The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" on the door of Wittenburg Cathedral, in protest at the Catholic doctrine of indulgences. The 500th anniversary of that event occurs in 3 years. New Advent Encyclopedia and NPR

Pope Francis's visit also commemorates forgiveness of Jews

On Saturday, Pope Francis said that "Religious freedom is in fact a fundamental human right," and he hoped that there would be a "climate of serene coexistence" between all religions. During his visit to Jerusalem on Sunday, the Pope will undoubtedly make remarks about coexistence with the Jewish religion.

For centuries, the Catholics have blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus and have justified discrimination against Jews for that reason. The most explicit statement of this was a Papal bull issued by Pope Paul IV on July 14, 1555. It applied mainly to the city of Rome. It established a ghetto with only one entrance and exit and prescribed severe economic restrictions. It begins with the words, "Cum Nimis Absurdu" ("As it is completely absurd"), and goes on to explain that though they are condemned to eternal servitude through their own fault (killing Jesus), it is absurd that they should be allowed to live freely with Christians. 

Here's the beginning: 

As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude, can under the pretext that pious Christians must accept them and sustain their habitation, are so ungrateful to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return contumely, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority: we, who newly learned that these very Jews have insolently invaded our City Rome and a number of the Papal States, territories and domains their impudence increased so much that they dare not only to live amongst the Christian people, but also in the vicinity of the churches without any difference of dressing, and even that they rent houses in the main streets and squares, buy and hold immovable property, engage maids, nurses and other Christian servants, and commit other and numerous misdeeds with shame and contempt of the Christian name. Considering that the Church of Rome tolerates these very Jews evidence of the true Christian faith and to this end [we declare]: that they, won over by the piety and kindness of the See, should at long last recognize their erroneous ways, and should lose no time in seeing the true light of the catholic faith, and thus to agree that while they persist in their errors, realizing that they are slaves because of their deeds, whereas Christians have been freed through our Lord God Jesus Christ, and that it is iniquitous for it to appear that the sons of free women serve the sons of maids. 

1. Desiring firstly, as much as we can with God, to beneficially provide, by this that will forever be in force, we ordain that for the rest of time, in the City as well as in other states, territories and domains of the Church of Rome itself, all Jews are to live in one and if there is not that capacity in two or three or however many quarters may be enough; they should reside entirely side by side in designated streets and be thoroughly separate from the residences of Christians, by our authority in the City and by that of our representatives in other states, lands and domains noted above, and that there must be only one entrance and exit from this quarter.

The paragraph above explicitly describes how the ghetto is to work. The bull goes to list enormous restrictions on Jews, including where they may earn a living. 

Even in the 1800s, the Rome ghetto still existed. Here's how it's described in the October 1870 edition of The Atlantic magazine: 

The inquirer visited the Ghetto, in the low ground near the Tiber, and found it "the most horrible and neglected quarter of the town," in which not the humblest of the thousand prelates about Rome would set his foot, any more than as Indian Brahmin would cross the threshold of a Pariah's hovel. "I learned,” says this author, “that the most humble employment in the most humble office would as soon be given to a beast as to a Jew; that for a child of Israel to ask in Rome to be employed as a commissary, would he more absurd than for the giraffe of the Jardin des Plantes to ask for an under-prefectship in Paris.” No Jew can own a foot of land in the papal dominions, nor cultivate one, unless in the name of a Christian; and if a Jew, using this artifice, ventures to cultivate a garden or a farm, his harvest is safe from pillage only so long as the legal device remains a secret. Let but the Christians around learn that the harvest is the property of an Israelite, and “a rage for plunder” seizes them, which leaves the hapless proprietor with desolated fields.

The Papal bull "Cum Nimis Absurdu" has never been withdrawn and was considered by many to be the teachings of the Church well into the 20th century, well through the time of Hitler and the Holocaust. 

It was only fully repudiated finally on April 13, 1986, when Pope John Paul II made a dramatic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome and gave an address that fully repudiated the terms of "Cum Nimis Absurdu:"

We are all aware that, among the riches of this paragraph no. 4 of Nostra Aetate, three points are especially relevant. I would like to underline them here, before you, in this truly unique circumstance. The first is that the Church of Christ discovers her "bond" with Judaism by "searching into her own mystery" (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.) The Jewish religion is not "extrinsic" to us, but in a certain way is "intrinsic" to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.

The second point noted by the Council is that no ancestral or collective blame can be imputed to the Jews as a people for "what happened in Christ's passion" (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.) Not indiscriminately to the Jews of that time, nor to those who came afterwards, nor to those of today. So any alleged theological justification for discriminatory measures or, worse still, for acts of persecution is unfounded. The Lord will judge each one "according to his own works," Jews and Christians alike (cf. Rom 2:6) 

The third point that I would like to emphasize in the Council's Declaration is a consequence of the second. Notwithstanding the Church's awareness of her own identity, it is not lawful to say that the Jews are "repudiated or cursed," as it this were taught or could be deduced from the Sacred Scriptures of the Old or the New Testament (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.). Indeed, the Council had already said in this same text of Nostra Aetate, but also in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 16, referring to Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans (11:28-29), that the Jews are beloved of God, who has called them with an irrevocable calling.

In particular, for the first time, the Pope specifically and unambiguously repudiated the claim that the Jews were at fault for the death of Jesus. NY Daily News and Zionism-Israel Information and The Atlantic (Oct 1870) and CCJR (Council of Centers on Jewish Christian Relations)

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