Despite being smeared as a Neo-Nazi and anti-Semite because he was in the Hitler youth, Israelis have a different take. They praise the Pope’s friendly relations with Israel and his work on achieving a historic accord between the Vatican and Israel which will be formalized once the new Israeli government is sworn in.
Tributes to Pope Benedict’s attitude and approach to the Jewish people and Israel during his tenure as the head of the Roman Catholic Church came quickly following his decision to resign on Monday.
The pontiff is widely seen as having helped promote relations between the Church and the Jewish people, and was ardent in his denunciations of anti-Semitism throughout his time as pope, condemning a resurgent form of anti-Semitism and deploring the phenomenon of Holocaust denial.
According to Shmuel Ben- Shmuel, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for the Diaspora and Religions, Benedict continued along the path of his predecessor John Paul in working toward the removal of theologically antagonistic doctrines held by the Church toward Jews.
Last month, significant progress was made in relations between Israel and the Vatican, which are now on the verge of formalizing diplomatic relations and were first opened in 1993.
The agreement will be fully ratified once a new Israeli government is formed.
Ben-Shmuel also noted that Benedict was the first pope to openly criticize radical Islam, a move that sparked outrage and intense criticism from the Muslim world.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said that Benedict should be particularly remembered for saying that God never abandoned his covenant with the Jewish people, and that Jews were Christians’ “older brothers” and “ancestors.” Amar also praised his strong stance and battle against all forms of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Rabbi David Rosen, the honorary adviser to the Chief Rabbinate on interfaith matters, described Benedict as a friend to the Jewish people who had worked toward improving relations, with a stance the pope had publicly emphasized in his visit to Israel and on other occasions.
Hopefully the next Pope continues solidifying relations between Israel and the Catholic Church. Both are facing existential threats at the hands of the Progressive-Islam Axis.