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

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

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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 ofreligion for everyone. On Sunday, he’ll move on to the Palestinianterritories, give the nod to the state of Palestine, and then moveon to Jerusalem, where he’ll meet with Orthodox and Jewish leaders.

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

“Convert those who seek war, those who make and sellweapons!

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

The Pope particularly took note of violence against Christiancommunities, forcing many to flee the region. He encouraged those whohad 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 theCatholic Church, the split between the Roman (Catholic) and Byzantine(Orthodox) churches is generally called a “schism” because there areno serious doctrinal differences separating the churches. From theearly days, there were always several branches of the Catholic Church,the two most important being the Western / Roman branch and theEastern / 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 theGreeks couldn’t speak Latin. Each developed rites that were strangeto the other. They had joint meetings and councils, but they couldn’tagree on policies and couldn’t understand each other anyway. Theschism officially began on July 16, 1054, when Rome excommunicated aGreek patriarch, Caerularius.

For the Greek Orthodox, the seminal moment in their relationship withthe Catholics came with the Crusades. In 1204, along the way tofighting the Muslims, the Crusades sacked Constantinople, starving andmurdering its citizens and plundering the Church’s treasuresaccumulated over the centuries. The deed was capped by placing aprostitute on the Emperor’s throne at the church of St. Sophia, atthat time the most beautiful church in Christendom. This moment isburned into the psyches of Orthodox Christians.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras met inJerusalem for the purpose of healing the schism and uniting theChurches. It was the first meeting of the leaders of the split churchsince 1054. In 2001, Pope John Paul visited Athens and encounteredlarge anti-Catholic protests. He apologized for the sacking ofConstantinople and made a plea for forgiveness.

So now the official purpose of Pope Francis’s Mideast trip is tocommemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 meeting. Francis willmeet Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He’sstill the Patriarch of Constantinople, even though the name of thecity was changed to Istanbul after the Moslems conquered it in 1453.They will meet Sunday at the spot where Jesus is believed to beburied.

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

The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther postedhis “95 Theses” on the door of Wittenburg Cathedral, in protest at theCatholic doctrine of indulgences. The 500th anniversary of that eventoccurs in 3 years. New Advent Encyclopediaand NPR

Pope Francis’s visit also commemorates forgiveness of Jews

On Saturday, Pope Francis said that “Religious freedom is in fact afundamental human right,” and he hoped that there would be a “climateof serene coexistence” between all religions. During his visit toJerusalem on Sunday, the Pope will undoubtedly make remarks aboutcoexistence with the Jewish religion.

For centuries, the Catholics have blamed the Jews for the death ofJesus and have justified discrimination against Jews for that reason.The most explicit statement of this was a Papal bull issued by PopePaul IV on July 14, 1555. It applied mainly to the city of Rome. Itestablished a ghetto with only one entrance and exit and prescribedsevere economic restrictions. It begins with the words, “Cum NimisAbsurdu” (“As it is completely absurd”), and goes on to explain thatthough they are condemned to eternal servitude through their own fault(killing Jesus), it is absurd that they should be allowed to livefreely with Christians. 

Here’s the beginning: 

As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmostthat the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by Godto eternal servitude, can under the pretext that pious Christiansmust accept them and sustain their habitation, are so ungratefulto Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, theyreturn contumely, and among themselves, instead of the slavery,which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority: we, whonewly learned that these very Jews have insolently invaded ourCity Rome and a number of the Papal States, territories anddomains their impudence increased so much that they dare not onlyto live amongst the Christian people, but also in the vicinity ofthe churches without any difference of dressing, and even thatthey rent houses in the main streets and squares, buy and holdimmovable property, engage maids, nurses and other Christianservants, and commit other and numerous misdeeds with shame andcontempt of the Christian name. Considering that the Church ofRome tolerates these very Jews evidence of the true Christianfaith and to this end [we declare]: that they, won over by thepiety and kindness of the See, should at long last recognize theirerroneous ways, and should lose no time in seeing the true lightof the catholic faith, and thus to agree that while they persistin their errors, realizing that they are slaves because of theirdeeds, whereas Christians have been freed through our Lord GodJesus Christ, and that it is iniquitous for it to appear that thesons of free women serve the sons of maids. 

1. Desiring firstly, as much as we can with God, to beneficiallyprovide, by this that will forever be in force, we ordain thatfor the rest of time, in the City as well as in other states,territories and domains of the Church of Rome itself, all Jews areto live in one and if there is not that capacity in two or threeor however many quarters may be enough; they should resideentirely side by side in designated streets and be thoroughlyseparate from the residences of Christians, by our authority inthe City and by that of our representatives in other states, landsand domains noted above, and that there must be only one entranceand exit from this quarter.

The paragraph above explicitly describes how the ghetto is towork. 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’sdescribed in the October 1870 edition of The Atlantic magazine: 

The inquirer visited the Ghetto, in the low groundnear the Tiber, and found it “the most horrible and neglectedquarter of the town,” in which not the humblest of the thousandprelates about Rome would set his foot, any more than as IndianBrahmin would cross the threshold of a Pariah’s hovel. “Ilearned,” says this author, “that the most humble employment inthe most humble office would as soon be given to a beast as to aJew; that for a child of Israel to ask in Rome to be employed as acommissary, would he more absurd than for the giraffe of theJardin des Plantes to ask for an under-prefectship in Paris.” NoJew can own a foot of land in the papal dominions, nor cultivateone, unless in the name of a Christian; and if a Jew, using thisartifice, ventures to cultivate a garden or a farm, his harvest issafe from pillage only so long as the legal device remains asecret. Let but the Christians around learn that the harvest isthe property of an Israelite, and “a rage for plunder” seizesthem, which leaves the hapless proprietor with desolatedfields.

The Papal bull “Cum Nimis Absurdu” has never been withdrawn andwas considered by many to be the teachings of the Church wellinto the 20th century, well through the time of Hitler andthe Holocaust. 

It was only fully repudiated finally on April 13, 1986, when Pope JohnPaul II made a dramatic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome and gavean address that fully repudiated the terms of “Cum Nimis Absurdu:”

We are all aware that, among the riches of thisparagraph no. 4 of Nostra Aetate, three points are especiallyrelevant. I would like to underline them here, before you, in thistruly unique circumstance. The first is that the Church of Christdiscovers her “bond” with Judaism by “searching into her ownmystery” (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.) The Jewish religion is notreligion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which wedo not have with any other religion. You are our dearly belovedbrothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are ourelder brothers.

The second point noted by the Council is that no ancestral orcollective blame can be imputed to the Jews as a people for “whathappened in Christ’s passion” (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.) Notindiscriminately to the Jews of that time, nor to those who cameafterwards, nor to those of today. So any alleged theologicaljustification for discriminatory measures or, worse still, foracts of persecution is unfounded. The Lord will judge each one2:6) 

The third point that I would like to emphasize in the Council’sDeclaration is a consequence of the second. Notwithstanding theChurch’s awareness of her own identity, it is not lawful to saythat the Jews are “repudiated or cursed,” as it this were taughtor could be deduced from the Sacred Scriptures of the Old or theNew Testament (cf. Nostra Aetate, ibid.). Indeed, the Council hadalready said in this same text of Nostra Aetate, but also in theDogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 16, referring to SaintPaul in the Letter to the Romans (11:28-29), that the Jews arebeloved of God, who has called them with an irrevocablecalling.

In particular, for the first time, the Pope specifically andunambiguously repudiated the claim that the Jews were at fault for thedeath 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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