Pope to Skip Israeli Holocaust Museum

It’s disappointing that Pope Benedict XVl will not visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on his upcoming trip to Israel. … Continued

It’s disappointing that Pope Benedict XVl will not visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on his upcoming trip to Israel. And it’s equally disappointing that his decision is such a big deal to so many people. Both realities point to the way communities fight over different understandings of the past when they should be addressing real challenges in the present.

I appreciate that the Pope will visit the memorial on the grounds of Israel’s national site devoted to Holocaust memory and education, and I note that his decision is no different from that of his predecessor John Paul ll, who was heralded as a kind of inter-religious hero. But it still disappointing that Pope Benedict will skip the museum because of a single display which questions the role of war-time Pope Pius Xll in saving Jews from the Nazis.

Is there really no room for disagreement on this matter of historical interpretation? Is any alternative reading of the past such a threat to the Church of the present that the Pope will avoid the museum altogether? Must any disagreement between people always be interpreted as denigration?

I fear that in attempting to preserve the good memory of a previous Pope, Benedict is sending the wrong message — one which lacks precisely the kind of intellectual nuance for which he is rightly famous.

On the other hand, I wonder why it matters so much. It’s not as if the Pope will avoid the topic of the Holocaust on his trip. He will participate in the same wreath-laying ceremony in which all heads of state participate. He will acknowledge the epic human suffering that was the Shoah, and he will do so standing in the capitol of the State of Israel. Isn’t that enough?

In fact, one could reasonably ask why, with all of the issues confronting people of faith in the Middle East especially, some members of the Jewish and Israeli community are making so much of this. Must the Church agree with everything that is said by Yad Vashem in order to be deemed appropriately sensitive to Jewish suffering in the Shoah? Has the “Jewish version” of the Pope Pius story factored in the real pressures faced by the war-time pontiff? Or, do we simply assume that since he failed to do all that we would have hoped for, he failed to do anything meaningful at all?

Instead of bickering about Pope Benedict’s itinerary, I suggest that we use his trip and the inevitable frustrations on both sides that are evoked by it, to reach out to those on the other side of whatever issue divides us and better understand the thinking of those with whom we disagree. We may not reach a shared conclusion, but we would actually contribute to a world that was safer, saner and more civilized. And the last time I checked, that was a pretty central claim to both Judaism and Catholicism.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • realitybased1

    With all due respect, Mr. Hirschfield, it’s not just a river in Egypt!!!!I beg you, and those Jewish people who are in denial about Rome. They are your enemies.Their whole religion is a counterfeit of the Old Testament covenant God made with Israel. They have, from the beginning, tried to steal your place.

  • realitybased1

    One correction in my first comment:

  • John_Keats

    Rome is attempting to steal the Jews’ victimhood? Really? So somehow it’s wrong for there to be a shrine for a catholic who died at Auschwitz because the victims were overwhelmingly Jewish? Rome and Islam collaborating against Israel? What a conspiracy theory. Personally, I don’t see why the Pope must feel obligated to go to any monuments, memorials, or holocaust services. The Pope has apologized to the Jews, and now I think that it’s time to focus on issues that confront Israel Today. Like those pesky Palestinians and Iranians.

  • ledshetlersbcglobalnet

    Of course he isn’t going to visit. He’s a German, his people did this. He was in the Hitler Youth. Of course, he had to be, he says. And, his parents were Nazis. of course not. After the war there wasn’t a bad German in the land. As to Pius XII, he sold out the Italian Jews to protect his own people. He made a deal. Read your history. And, I’m Catholic, but rather disappointed. Also, the present Pope reinstated the Bishop who denied the awful thing ever happened. Sicking, isn’t it?

  • aryehbarson

    In the world of religion, symbolism is everything, and that includes the symbolism of the actions of the heads of the religion. The author seems to be oblivious to this simple fact.Call me cynical, but should I have any expectations of something substantiative to emerge from this papal visit? The current Pope seems to have no moral conflict with reinstating priests that denounce the existence of the Holocaust. Wouldn’t a visit to Yad Va’shem be a sign that the Vatican is wiiling to consider penance for its complicity in this atrocity? If the Pope’s recent visit to Africa is any indication, the Vatican will continue to tow it’s ignorant and decrepit line. The Pope is complicit in the deaths of all those he has taught not to use condoms, as this would appear to be his benediction of the “virtues” of spreading AIDS.No, Mr. Hirschfield, I don’t think this subject should be dilluted to “why can’t we all just get along?” sniveling. I don’t see any way to move into the future until amends for the past are made, even if they are only symbolic.

  • semidouble

    Search “REICHSKONKORDAT” the agreement between Hitler and the catholic church.

  • theobserver4

    Is there really no room for disagreement on this matter of historical interpretation? Is any alternative reading of the past such a threat to the Church of the present that the Pope will avoid the museum altogether?-How cute, you must not know any hard line Catholics. The answer is no there is not any room for disagreement no matter what the merits of the argument are. There is no alternative reading to that of the church. One of a number of reasons that people in an intellectual age are walking away from the church. Besides this pope is an ex-Hitler youth. You’d think he’d be going out of his way not be appear to be a creepy holdover from the war. he doesn’t have to when the faithful with goose-step along with him……

  • RobertLeeHotchkisss

    The current Pope unfortunately has a record of minimizing the Jews unique experience of the Holocaust. In general the current Pope has repeatedly given the impression he just doesn’t care about people outside his particular view of Catholicism. His disdain for other belief systems makes it very difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately he will likely say some in Israel even more offensive than his refusal to visit the museum.

  • tommyj7648

    George Washington on Israel”A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.” ~George Washington Farewell Address “The nation which indulges toward another habitual hatred or habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interests.” ~ George Washington”Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

  • yorkville7

    WHY WERE THERE HOSPITALS IN A “DEATH CAMP” WHY WHEN THE CAMP WAS LIBERATED was ellie weisel in the camp infirmary for a foot infection?? why when the number of jews killed in auchvitz was officially changed from 4.5 million to 1 million did the 6 million story stay at 6 million?? why was the red cross allowed to deliver 15 pound food parcels to inmates from their families each month if it was a death camp??? why do the red cross official death toll of jews in all camps state 273,000 mostly from typhus.human soap made from jews and lampshades made from skin have been publically refuted as hoaxes by the holocaust memorials after being scrutinized by european historians, but why did so many “survivors” with tears in their eyes claim to have witnessed these lies?? WHY ARE HISTORIANS IN EUROPE WILLING TO GO TO PRISON RATHER THAN BE SILENCED BY THE JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS ANY LONGER??? jews say its”the most documented event in history” until someone asks for documentation and then they say”the germans destroyed all the records as the allies advanced”

  • optimist3

    The usual screaming crackpots are out on this one…

  • ghp60

    Some great comments here. If we had given the Jews Utah, they would be at war with Colorado or Nevada. If Idaho then Oregon or Montana. A dear friend of mine once told me that it was indeed a shame that the Jews have been kicked out of every country they have lived. The bigger shame is that they have never tried to understand why. Conda-lies-a Rice said yesterday that her greatest dissapointment was in not bringing peace between Israel and Palestine. It was especially hard to do that when she didn’t start until 7 years into the 8 year term — following Israel’s wishes on the subject.

  • mkathanne1

    Benedict has visted Auschwitz in Poland. I believe it was during his first trip outside the Vatican after becoming Pope. I can understand his not going to the Museum in Israel because of Pius XII being accused of being compliant in the death of many Jews. It is important to make a public statement on the subject.I believed at one time the accusations concerning Pius. However, after examining much information on the subject I no longer do.The church did not treat Jewish people well historically and I think Pius has been viewed in part through the color of that history.John Paul II tried to re-establish Catholic-Jewish relations on a better footing. My Jewish friends are quite pleased with his eforts.

  • historyStudent1

    For several point posted earlier, a little history is in order…The Reichskonkordat, signed in 1933, cited earlier is an agreement meant to ensure Roman Catholics freedom of religion in Germany. It did not condone anti-Semitism.Four years later, in the encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” (with Burning Anxiety),addressed to the Church in Germany and Austria, Pope Pius XI condemned the pagan ideology of National Socialism (Nazism) and anti-Semitism.While it is true Joseph Ratzinger was in a Nazi youth organization, it should be pointed out that such membership was compulsary in a totalitarian society. The price of non-conformity would have been severe.On Auchwitz, to point out that thousands Gentiles (many Catholic Christians) joined the Jews in the gas chambers, is not an attempt to rewrite history, but to further illuminate the horror wrecked upon the humanity in the name of racial purity. We must heed the somber warning “Do Not Forget”

  • SouthStar

    Of course. Absolutely. And the Pope should not even comment about it.

  • SouthStar

    The Pope should visit the museum even less, while there are unreasonable denials to identify how many Catholics and how many Romanians and how many of each ethnic type have been killed by the Nazis.

  • kevin1231

    May be pope should visit. But since when has Israel shown such an openmindedness in its occupation and policies towards Palestinians. Or is it just convenient to do so only when it benefits Israel in certain way?

  • slim2

    “Is there really no room for disagreement on this matter of historical interpretation?………………………………………Good questions;Is any alternative reading of the past such a threat to the Church of the present”Change the word Church to Jews and ask them.

  • harrumph1

    Who cares about the Pope anyway? Most noncatholics don’t believe in a devine basis for his being chosen, and he is not an elected representative of any group. I don’t even understand why any religion should have a a single “world leader” heading it without the person having earned the status as world leader. There should be no international recognition of the Pope as a world leader – instead it should be left up to catholics alone to decide how to regard him.

  • eaglehawkaroundsince1937

    Whoops, I ment WWJD?

  • Garak

    The Pope should not visit Yad Vashem until President Peres of Israel visits the monument to the Armenian Holocaust in Yerevan in Armenia. Peres denies the Armenian Holocaust. Holocaust-denier Peres said “What happened to the Armenians was a tragedy, not a genocide.” As long as the President of Israel is a Holocaust-denier, no one–not the Pope, not any other person–has any moral or ethical obligation to acknowledge what Hitler did to the Jews.What happened to the Jews was a tragedy, not a genocide. The Pope is too busy to visit every memorial to mere tragedies.

  • arosscpa

    1) While the Vatican Secret Archives will not allow outside historians to review the papers from the reign of Pius XII until the archival and cataloging process is complete, the Vatican historians and the procurator for the cause of Pius XII have published adequate documentation to justifies the Vatican City State’s formal objection to the descriptive plaque regarding Pius XII. Much of this is available to the public.Any foreign visit by the Supreme Pontiff has two dimensions: a state visit and a pastoral visit among the faithful over whom he exercises supreme and total jurisdiction. Given the number of possible opportunities, is it surprising that a visit to a site containing a historically inaccurate attack on one of his predecessors as not included in the agenda?

  • RCA1

    With all due respect, 12 million people were killed in concentration camps by the Nazi’s. One half of these were Jews, one half were non-Jews. But whenever there is mention of the Holocaust, it is to be understood this represents only the Jews who were killed, not everyone. The Jewish community building monuments and insisting no one ever forget have no interest and seem to have forgotten the 6 million others who were killed in the camps. I find it supremely ironic that the Jews who are immensely insulted that their 6 million are ignored by a world leader, are the same ones who have so disregarded the other 6 million people, non-Jews, lost. This is so true that now most people think only 6 million died in the camps, not 12 million. It seems the Jews will not acknowledge the outrage of all 12 million killed, but expect all should be outraged on their behalf. When you hear “never again” the Jews seem only to mean themselves. There was no Jewish movement to stop the bloodbath in Rwanda of Hutus slaughtering Tutsis. How shameful.

  • RCA1

    With all due respect, 12 million people were killed in concentration camps by the Nazi’s. One half of these were Jews, one half were non-Jews. But whenever there is mention of the Holocaust, it is to be understood this represents only the Jews who were killed, not everyone. The Jewish community building monuments and insisting no one ever forget have no interest and seem to have forgotten the 6 million others who were killed in the camps. I find it supremely ironic that the Jews who are immensely insulted that their 6 million are ignored by a world leader, are the same ones who have so disregarded the other 6 million people, non-Jews, lost. This is so true that now most people think only 6 million died in the camps, not 12 million. It seems the Jews will not acknowledge the outrage of all 12 million killed, but expect all should be outraged on their behalf. When you hear “never again” the Jews seem only to mean themselves. There was no Jewish movement to stop the bloodbath in Rwanda of Hutus slaughtering Tutsis. How shameful.

  • CCNL

    A Large Expenditure and A Constant Irritation for/to the Taxpayers of the USA- The Jews and Palestinians are being separated by walls. Hopefully the walls will follow the 1948 UN accords. Unfortunately the Annapolis Peace Conference was not successful. Unfortunately the recent events in Gaza has put this situation back to “square one”.And this conflict of significant stupidity is driven by the mythical foundations of Judaism and Islam!!! How tragic and sad!!!

  • CCNL

    And what makes Farnaz an expert on anything resembling Judaism since she is a professed Jewish atheist??

  • shrnyassin

    If the pope visits Yad Vashem then he should visit Gaza, and look into the devestation and destruction Israel left after the 2009 war on that tiny coastal strip.

  • CCNL

    Once again, what makes Farnaz an expert on anything resembling Judaism since she is a professed Jewish atheist??BTW, the pope apparently considered visiting the headquarters of the Baha’i cult in Haifa, Israel but thought better of it when he read the following: “Singled out as Authentic – as the only Institution in the world that has the living descendant of King David as its president, the great grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Baha seated upon the throne of King David which is to last forever (Psalm 89) – this House alone, the true UHJ, has the Divine Power and God given Knowledge through the “KEY of DAVID” to heal the world of all its ills and guide a wayward and forlorn humanity back out of the gloom of the darkness of war into the light of real fellowship, truth, felicity and brotherly love in the shade of the divine and holy Tree of Life – man reunited with God in the garden of God as this earth was meant to be – in fulfillment of this sacred verse.”

  • CCNL

    Once again, what makes Farnaz an expert on anything resembling Judaism since she is a professed Jewish atheist?? So why so many pro-Israel/Jewish rants on her part???And with respect her claim that I am anti-semitic:I simply note the following beliefs of many of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis. BTW, one of their rabbis, David Wolpe, is an On Faith panelist. Does this then make these Conservative Jews and Rabbi Wolpe anti-semitic??”Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or aFortunately, the pope decided not to visit the Baha’ist “temple” in Haifa, Israel as the strange beliefs of this cult would put B16 in even deeper “do-do”.And I previously recommended the following books for those interested in the Tannaim.”Life After Death: A Study of the Afterlife in World Religions) by Farnaz Masumian- out of print?? (Dr. Chopra has published what appears to be a similar book entitled This book apparently a rewrite byand”Divine Educators” by Farnaz and Bijan Masumian – ( part-time teachers of religion and computer/internet science at the University of Texas, Austin)- out of print

  • CCNL

    OK, to save you from scrolling down: (plus some added information from the Conservative Jews)Once again, what makes Farnaz an expert on anything resembling Judaism since she is a professed Jewish atheist?? So why so many pro-Israel/Jewish rants on her part???And with respect her claim that I am anti-semitic:I simply note the following beliefs of many of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis. BTW, one of their rabbis, David Wolpe, is an On Faith panelist. Does this then make these Conservative Jews and Rabbi Wolpe anti-semitic??”Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or awww.simpletoremember.com/vitals/ConservativeTorah.htm And the actual words from: “New Torah For Modern MindsAbraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.Such startling propositions — the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years — have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until now.” Fortunately, the pope decided not to visit the Baha’ist “temple” in Haifa, Israel as the strange beliefs of this cult would put B16 in even deeper “do-do”.And I previously recommended the following books for those interested in the Tannaim.”Life After Death: A Study of the Afterlife in World Religions) by Farnaz Masumian- out of print?? (Dr. Chopra has published what appears to be a similar book entitled “Live After Death”) This book apparently a rewrite byand”Divine Educators” by Farnaz and Bijan Masumian – ( part-time teachers of religion and computer/internet science at the University of Texas, Austin)- out of print

  • CCNL

    Of course, the following is a simply a partial summary of the current thinking of most Conservative Jews. Since Farnaz is a professed Jewish atheist, it is surprising that she even cares what Conservative Jews think.”Moses, the “Tablet-Man” who talked to burning bushes and made much magic in Egypt.”Tis odd how sometimes Farnaz acts so “cultish” especially being an atheist???

  • CCNL

    Hmmm, the only anti-semetic remark I have seen on the On Faith blog pages was made by one Stadtbear who has since left the arena. Said low-life noted that the only thing about the Holocaust that he/she was sorry about was that it was not completed.

  • CCNL

    Hmmm, very strange that Farnaz forgot about Stadtbear’s anti-semetic commentary. Or is it?????

  • asizk

    We ‘ve had much more of the holocaust story than we can handle: why do not Jews spend a little time ending the on going painful and agonizing Holocaust of the Palestinian People which has been going on for nearly a century:the complete invasion and occupation of the homeland PAlestine for over sixty years,their exile,collective punishment and a jewish apartheid regime imposed on them.

  • CCNL

    Some of Stadtbear’s low-life, anti-semitic commentary (besides his wishing the Holocaust had been completed) that Farnaz conveniently forgets??”Geseke wrote:Well of course not! The gas chamber at Dachau, which was installed as a hail-Mary effort by the Nazis at the near end of the war, was never used. Nobody was ever gassed at Dachau, thanks to the end of the war.