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The Vatican and Israel
Pope Benedict XVI has been a better friend of Israel than some Protestant leaders. There have been no Vatican calls for divestment. In spite of decades of gradually improving Catholic attitudes to Jews, however, there are still flaws. Any cracks in the Church are now becoming more visible, as they open up under the heat of the situation in Lebanon.
The latest examination of these lines of weakness is an article by Joseph D'Hippolito, Pontificating Against Israel. A major line of weakness is the Vatican Secretary of State, the soon to be replaced Cardinal Sodano, one of the exponents of “pro-Arab prejudice” within the Vatican. He is a powerful man.
As secretary of state, Sodano is responsible for the Vatican’s communications outlets – including its newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which constantly displays an anti-Israel attitude. The magazine from Sodano’s own office, Civilita Cattolica, complements L’Osservatore with anti-American rhetoric “after the fashion of the radical left of Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore,” Magister wrote.
An admirer of the terrorist Arafat, Sodano’s prejudice has even driven him to a certain dishonesty (well, what do you expect of a fan of Arafat?)
Sodano has gone so far as to use duplicitous means to promote his agenda, even at the expense of the Vatican’s diplomatic credibility and Benedict’s dignity.
It was Sodano who, while the Pope was away on holiday, prepared a statement in Benedict’s name, which condemned recent terrorist attacks in a number of countries, but omitted to mention a suicide bombing in Netanya.
Sodano publicized the statement July 24, 2005. One day later, Israel’s foreign ministry filed a protest. Tensions reached the point where Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke directly with Sodano, who tried to shift the blame to the Vatican’s press secretary, Joaquin Navarro-Walls, who accompanied Benedict on vacation.
But mandatory retirement is forcing the 78-year-old Sodano out. Pope Benedict himself testified to Sodano’s rapidly diminishing influence by publicly contradicting him July 18, when the pope supported the G8 summit’s blaming Hezbollah and Hamas for hostilities.
As well as removing Sodano, a more positive future approach to Israel is promised in certain other appointments, most notably Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who, it is believed, will be appointed as bishop for Hebrew-speaking Christians in Israel.
The article finishes with a warning note.
But if the Vatican is serious about changing its policy toward Israel – and if it really believes its rhetoric about supporting peoples rather than their governments – it must forcefully and unequivocally offer the same support to Israeli victims of terror as it does to Arab victims of war and religious persecution.
Otherwise, intelligent people will recognize the Vatican’s support for the innocent as nothing but a cover for its own geopolitical interests and cynical personal agendas – as, unfortunately, it has been to this point.