After Pius move, Pope Benedict practices delicate Jewish dance
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
December 31, 2009
ROME (JTA) — For at least the third time in his papacy, Pope Benedict’s XVI is doing the Jewish dance that takes him one step back, one step forward.
The step back came when Benedict made a move in mid-December to bring Holocaust-era Pope Pius XII a bit closer to sainthood. The step forward will come in mid-January, when Benedict visits Rome’s main synagogue — a trip planned long before Benedict’s move on Pius.
The question is what impact the visit will have on ruffled Catholic-Jewish relations.
“It is an important event, a milestone in the dialogue,” Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, told Vatican Radio about the planned synagogue visit. “We have great expectations for what it can mean in terms of the general climate.”
… Analysts said Benedict’s move on Pius is part of the pope’s effort to shore up conservative forces within the church.
“The pope apparently has chosen to balance his unquestionable commitment to the Catholic Church’s good relations with world Judaism with his commitment to recuperating the religious right wing of Catholicism,” said Lisa Palmieri Billig, the American Jewish Committee’s liaison to the Vatican. “Obviously his path is strewn with warring obstacles.”
Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, an expert in interfaith relations and the vice president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said, “The great struggle of this moment is shoring up the most traditional elements of his church as he fights the growing secularization and Islamification of the European stage, which is right before his eyes.”
Bretton-Granatoor said that the visit to the synagogue in Rome is “far more telling about the state of Catholic-Jewish relations” than the move to elevate Pius …