Rabbi Gary Creditor: "The Pope and the Jews"
In comparison to issues, local, national and global, facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and in comparison to issues facing the Catholic Church, it might seem trivial to ask if Pope Benedict XVI was "good for the Jews?" and if his relationship to us was good for the Church? I am not sure how to answer the latter, but the former is certainly clear.
First of all, why is this question so pressing? The answer is, it seems to me, that since the global issues confronting the Jewish people and the State of Israel will not go away until the Messiah comes, we need advocates to constantly raise their voices, use their influence on our behalf on the world's stage.
Even if and when anti-Semitism decreases, it will never disappear and must be confronted, fought and defeated. Vigilance is a prerequisite for survival.
No matter how many court battles are won against deniers of the Holocaust and malicious claims against us, they never disappear. It is a virus for which there is no immunization.
In comparison to the nearly two millennia of Christian opposition to Judaism, it is barely fifty years since Vatican II began the change of its core theology about us. This can never be taken for granted. The relationship needs constant tending, deepening and widening.
For us, we take for granted the right of the existence of the State of Israel. Not so the rest of the world. We need voices that are not our own, to articulate the historical justice and the political correctness to the existence of the State. We need these voices when the bombs fly and to make sure the nuclear one does not.
In all of these matters, Pope Benedict XVI has been a good and steady friend, a chaver, to the Jewish people and Medinat Israel. This change began with Pope John XXIII and then was furthered by Pope John Paul II. In these years Pope Benedict XVI continued and deepened the connection and support of the Vatican towards the Jewish people and Medinat Yisrael. Despite a few bumps in the road, this Pope has been a blessing to us.
It is difficult to know if this has been "good for the Church." They are beset by very serious issues that are not ours. They have a vast population that is not in Europe, were born after the Holocaust, hardly know Jews and Judaism, and that reside in areas that are at risk. The next Pope will face serious and severe challenges.
Yet the Pope and his immediate predecessors have created a historical vision about themselves and about us. They looked deeply inside themselves, their theology, and their holy texts and radically rewrote their "story." It is now critical that this direction be fortified, strengthened and maintained. I pray for Pope Benedict XVI, that without the burden of leading the Catholic Church, he will find peace and restoration of health. I pray that the new Pope will walk in his footsteps and be a chaver to us. As Pope John Paul called us their "elder brother," as family-in-faith, I pray for their choice to lead them to a successful and blessed future.