The Next Pope Could Be Progressive and Transform Relations With Jews

Don't Assume Cardinals Will Pick Benedict-Style Conservative

getty images

By John Connelly

Published February 17, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

Those who study history have good reason to fear that progress may be reversed. But Benedict’s record in Jewish-Christian affairs shows the limited impact even a tone deaf Pope can have. When in the person of Cardinal Kasper the Church had to face the world, he was drawn toward the Vatican II teaching with a force like gravity. The pope’s new prayer was not only not defended: it was forgotten. Only a miniscule proportion ever heard it any case, because it is prayed in Latin, which is used at a tiny fraction of Catholic parishes.

Yet history also teaches that complacency serves no one. Theologians may share a consensus about passages in the New Testament, but that does not mean the new teaching has reached Christians in the pews, who often shy away from theology as a matter best left to experts. But theology is too important to be left to the experts. One does not need to read the original Greek to understand the issues involved; they are well explained in accessible works, for example books on the Gospels and Paul by the Boston College Jesuit Daniel Harrington. In my view, Harrington should become a household name.

We also know from history that it is a good thing that Jews take an interest in Christian scripture. Jules Isaac’s book stimulated a generation of Christian theologians, for example the young Augustinian Gregory Baum, who helped draft the Vatican II statement. But that statement would never have been imagined had it not been for a direct, personal appeal by Isaac to Pope John XXIII in the summer of 1960. He implored this sympathetic pope (who had helped Jews during the Holocaust) to do something to put an end to a history of contempt.

Without Isaac there would have been no statement on the Jews, but without John XXIII there would have been no council to begin with: the charge was to bring the church “up to date.” It’s worth recalling in these hours that John XXIII, elected in 1958 after nineteen years of monarchical rule under Pius XII, seemed to contemporaries a complete surprise, a blast of fresh air with no evident origin, elected by cardinals who had been chosen by a pope who tried to shield the Church from history.

John Connelly is professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “From Enemy to Brother: the Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965,” (Harvard University Press,2012).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.