Chabad Reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Israel

Rabbi Sholom DovBer Wolpe, leader of Chabad’s messianist faction in Israel, condemns the Church and Pope. As Israel prepares for Benedict XVI’s historic visit, head of SOS Israel believes ‘rabbis must not meet with the pope because the Catholic Church tortured and murdered Jews and helped the Nazis annihilate the Jewish people’ (Efrat Weiss, Ynet).

Question: What is your opinion about this reaction?

Answer: Rabbi Wolpe is an outspoken Habad rabbi who believes that the deceased Rebbe of Lubavitch is going to come back from the dead and redeem the Jewish people. His perspectives on a variety of Jewish and political issues are regarded by many Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews as provocative–even fanatical.

Personally, I think you need to look back at the eulogies Jewish leaders gave in honor of Pope Pius XII shortly after his demise.

Numerous Jewish leaders, including Albert Einstein, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, and Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog (who was a brilliant rabbinic scholar), expressed their public gratitude to Pius XII, praising him as a “righteous gentile,” who had saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

In his meticulously researched and comprehensive 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews, the Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, who had served as the Israeli Counsel General in Milan, and had spoken with many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors who owed their life to Pius, provided the empirical basis for their gratitude, concluding that Pius XII “was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.” To this day, the Lapide volume remains the definitive work, by a Jewish scholar, on the subject.

‚ÄúDecember of 1940, in an article published in Time magazine, the renowned Nobel Prize winning physicist Albert Einstein, himself a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, paid tribute to the moral “courage” of Pope Pius and the Catholic Church in opposing “the Hitlerian onslaught” on liberty:

“Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom: but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Catholic Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.” Continue reading “Chabad Reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Israel”