Not being very big on television viewing, my husband and I have National Public Radio tuned into our homes and cars most of the time. Our daily wake-up time is 4:30 a.m. - first thing I heard on BBC overnight NPR broadcast [11 February 2013] was that the Pope had resigned. My – was I still too tired to comprehend the fine British voice that was relaying details about this historic occurrence or was I, like most, REALLY caught off guard? Let me just state that I know to tread lightly on topics concerning the Vatican and all of Christianity – we Jews are well schooled in being rather reticent on making public statements and pronouncements referencing our Christian brethren. Sadly, I am afraid we are not given the same dignity and respect … far too often those not Jewish are anxious to express their rather ignorant personal opinions about my faith and Israel. So be it – I believe that all faiths are purview for a world conversation – after all each of us in the human family is affected by the others actions and believes. Still, what is it to me if a Pope resigns? No matter my outsider status, surely my readers know I will be more than willing to pontificate (no pun intended) on this weighty matter.
The REAL historic facts are that the Christian faith was birthed from Judaic roots … begun as a, shall we say, alternative Jewish viewpoint and not open to Gentiles in its original configuration. One can ask – is it singularly the who is the REAL Messiah issue or much more? That rather insidious discussion is for another time – here I will share my own and if I can be so bold, what most Jews feel in respect to the Pope. Personally, I remain indebted to Pope John XXII – he convoked Vatican II and therefore liberated us by finally stating the REAL truth that we Jews did NOT “kill Christ” – that was the Romans guilt alone. I am proud to say that my Jewish Father was a member of an advisory group for the World Affairs Council that helped inform Pope John on such interfaith issues from the United States perspective. All Jews feel that the prior Pope Pius XII and WWII Vatican did not do enough to save us during the holocaust … that egregious hurt is softened on account of the many “righteous gentiles” who risk their own life to save us from Nazi horrors. Modernity presented all the world with much beloved Pope John Paul II – not always in agreement but none-the-less sure this kind man wished for only the best for his flock and the rest of humanity. His replacement [the current Pope Benedict XVI] being a German and admitted “Nazi Youth” was at first quite daunting for us in the Jewish community – consequently, proven a decent man and outreaching to all faiths, the current Pope allowed dialogue and continuing joint efforts between all religions. Now a resignation - certainly the ongoing pedophilia scandals cause for consternation but does anyone seriously believe that prompted such a untimely decision.? I think not - I for one often champion all the amazing REAL charitable work that the Catholic Church has done … truly Herculean efforts on behalf of many and I am saddened that many chose to ignore the positive in light of scandal.
Today’s announcement while surprising is not without precedence – four previous Popes voluntarily resigned in the last thousand years and those were often scandalous in nature or resulting from violent and deciduous events. My confusion is as to why some – not many of my Catholic family and friends – feel so offended by the normality of tone when discussion occurs in relationship to the so called “Holy Sea“. The reality is we humans, while children of G-d, are flawed … we falter and we err but we are still glorious creatures. To that point, as my devout and REAL Catholic dear husband suggested when hearing the Pope’s resignation news, the idea that four previous popes resigned is given to remembrance of the Philadelphia story of The Four Chaplains who perished to save others in 1943 on the ill fated Dorchester ship during WWII; these G-d inspired heroes are men I was taught about by my multi-faith, diverse ethnicity parents early in my life and I have referenced them many times to others since. My husband’s reasoning and with which I concur is that the faith of four individuals can be a binding adherence amongst diversified factors – the four resigned Popes were part and parcel of their historical REAL human times, as were the four chaplains in their decision. Overall, I can hence answer my titles question – what is a Jew to think when a Pope resigns – it is that as all people of REALLY good character and love of our fellows, I think only that he and his flock should be blessed by the grace of the L-rd now and forever - Amen!!!
P.S. In my end 2013 memoir, Heiress Mommy … A Modern Super Woman Life! there will be many interesting REAL facts about my very divergent background. One relevant funny story is that as a small child I believed that G-d must have changed the color of the smoke at Vatican city that denoted the choosing of a new Pope … in other words, I thought that when G-d decided who was to be chosen, he changed the color. Only after questioning my learned Father, did I understand the smoke’s color was changed by men as a signaling that the new Pontiff was decided on. Cute – right? By the way, for what it is worth – I hope and pray that the powers that be select a man of color from a third world nation to be the next Pope – that is my totally unsolicited vote.