Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pope Francis' Interview in La Vanguardia Part II

The Pope's interview with La Vanguardia continues in Part II, along with the Bear's cheeky comments.

Pope Francis on the Three Great Abrahamic Religions at the Vatican Totally-Not-Praying-Together, But Together for Prayer: I felt that it was something that eluded us all. Here, in the Vatican, 99 percent of the people said it would not have done, and then that one percent grew. I felt that we were being pushed into something that had never occurred and gradually took shape. It was by no means a political act - and I felt this from the beginning - but a religious act: to open a window on the world

Bear: Good to know that 99 percent of the Vatican was not behind this idea. Notice how vague interreligion is, when you get down to it. "To open a window on the world." Pope Francis probably thinks it was wonderful the last time someone opened the windows of the Vatican. (That would be Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. The Bear's ears prick up when he hears phrases repeated.) What was it then? A non-political political event? A non-praying-together religious event? It was a Gesture. This papacy is full of them.

Pope Francis on Jews: You cannot live your Christianity, you cannot be a true Christian, if you do not recognize your Jewish roots. I don’t mean Hebrew in the sense of Semitic race, but in a religious sense. I believe that interfaith dialogue should deepen this, the Jewish roots of Christianity and the flourishing Christian Judaism. I understand that it is a challenge, a hot potato, but it can be done as brothers. I pray every day the Divine Office with the Psalms of David. We went through the 150 Psalms in a week. My prayer is Hebrew, and then I have the Eucharist, which is Christian.

Bear: The Holy Father does not mean to say he prays the Divine Office, 150 Psalms per week, unless he uses a different psalter than the Bear does. But it is cool to be saying the same prayers the Pope says, and, indeed, the whole Church together. How are the Jewish roots of Christianity a hot potato? Certainly they are not if they remain roots. No one is denying that the historical and spiritual roots of Christianity are found in Judaism.

It becomes a "hot potato" when you "re-think" Church teaching and start saying things like the Church has no mission to the Jews (which would have surprised St. Paul and St. Peter). Or the Jews are saved, despite willfully remaining outside the Church. You make it a hot potato when you open old controversies and declare that the Church has not superseded Judaism, and that Jews are still awaiting their Messiah. Or that it is not a game where we say to the Jews, "sorry, you lost."

Well, the Bear says, in all love, to the Jews, your Messiah did come, and you had Him crucified and all but the tiniest remnant have rejected him to this day. But you are awaiting your Messiah in the sense that He will come again as your Judge. There is no longer any clear thinking or discussion of Jews in the Church, so this is really not a matter for Bears to talk about. Except this: the Bear is grateful for being grafted onto the Jewish vine, and wishes every Jew in the world would come into the Church and be re-grafted onto the vine alongside us -- as Christians. Just like our St. Paul pleaded.

Pope on Antisemitism: I cannot explain why it happens, but I think it is a very united phenomenon, in general, and without a fixed rule, to the right. Antisemitism usually lurks better in right political currents rather than left, right? And it continues. Including those who deny the Holocaust, a madness.

Bear: Pope associates the right with antisemitism. The Bear is already on thin ice here (he's doing his best to get blacklisted by the SPLC) but isn't that painting with a rather broad brush? One might say the Spirit of the Antichrist is associated with the left, and be equally correct, and equally inexact. The Bear thinks this comment is unfortunate, but revealing. The Pope is pushing the right (or should the Bear say "left?") buttons.

Pope Francis on Pope Pius XII: The opening of the Archives will bring a lot of light. On this theme, what worries me is the figure of Pius XII, the Pope who led the Church during the Second World War. Everything was pulled out on poor Pius XII. But we must remember that first he is seen as the great defender of Jews. He hid many in convents in Rome and in other Italian cities, as well as in the summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. There, in the Pope's house, in his bedroom 42 children were born, the children of Jews and other persecuted refugees. I do not mean that Pius XII did not make mistakes – I too make so many  - but his role is to be read in the context of that time. Was it better, for example, for him not to speak so that no more Jews would be killed most Jews, or should he have spoken? I also want to say that sometimes I am overcome by existential hives when I see everyone taking it out on the Church and Pius XII, and they forget the great powers. Do you know that they were perfectly aware of the Nazi railway network that transported Jews to the concentration camps? They had photos. But they did not bomb these railway lines. Why? It would be good to talk a bit about everything.

Bear: Got to give Pope Francis a lot of credit here. Another pope may have been as outspoken about Pope Pius XII and WWII, but the Bear doesn't recall it. Perhaps just as only Nixon could go to China, only Pope Francis could canonize Pope Pius XII. "Existential hives?" It is hard to second guess the Allies. They suffered horrendous air losses bombing military targets in order to shorten the war and rescue prisoners in concentration camps. The Pope is certainly correct, however, that the Allies had the means to do something about the concentration camps and the Vatican did not. The Bear has always thought the criticism of Pope Pius XII was just mean-spirited and ignorant. Anything short of personally leading the Swiss Guard into Berlin in 1939 makes him a war criminal in the eyes of many. Very unjust, and again, the Pope makes us proud here.

Pope Francis on Turning Out the Lights: The size of a priest is that which best shows my vocation.  To serve people comes from within. I turn off the light so as not to spend too much money, for example.  These are things pastor’s do. But I also feel Pope. It helps me do things seriously. My co-workers are very serious and professional. I have the help that I need to do my duty. You should not play at being Pope or priest, it would be immature. When a head of state arrives, I must receive him with the protocol and dignity he deserves. It is true that I have problems with the protocol, but we must respect it.

Bear: "I turn off the light so as not to spend too much money, for example." One must resist the comparison to Jimmy Carter wearing his cardigan so he can keep the thermostat dialed down. One suspects this is not a gesture, but a sincere, if idiosyncratic, habit. Viewed through a Benedictine lens, we are all responsible for the little things that make up our day, including the care for our "tools." (Readers of St. Benedict's Rule will understand.)

Next in Part III: Future Plans and Relations With the Orthodox


  1. Good summary. Lots to think about. One note. I think the "right" and "left" outside the US mean different things. The "right" is more "royalist" and "establishment". But in EUrope and thus the rest of the world, both right and left are statist. There is no real comfort in market economics or individualism in other nations. They really just replaced their paternal lords and kings with paternalist elected governments and entrenched bureaucrats.

    1. He may be thinking of parties like Greece's Golden Dawn that are nationalist / nativist, which do well in European elections. A wider range of opinion is tolerated in Europe than in the United States, with our two-party-one-party system.


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