US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Professor pope can't win in Holy Land

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Poor Pope Benedict. He can never quite hit the mark in his relationship with other religions, and it looks like his address at Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, disappointed many in the Jewish community.

The New York Times reports that the pope's speech is being criticized for a lack of empathy and the absence of the words "Nazi" and "German." Add to that yet another gaffe by the Vatican press office, in which Federico Lombardi, the pope's spokesman, denied the pope had ever been in the Hitler Youth, and you get another stumble in Catholicism's relationship with Judaism. (Benedict admitted in his 1997 autobiography that he was forced to join the Hitler Youth, by the way.)

Benedict is truly a professor; nothing he says is without careful nuance. Unfortunately, people, even Jews in Israel, are looking for a pastor who speaks from the heart. John Paul II got that; he was a pastor at heart. Benedict, on the other hand, is a professor and always will be, which makes him a different kind of pope.

B16 can't be blamed for who he is--though I wish he would work on adapting a bit--but the Vatican press office is clearly a mess, and it obviously lacks the staff to handle its task in this media driven world. Lombardi's gaffe is unforgivable from the professional point of view, and he ought to be reassigned. The Vatican needs someone who can really manage the media minefield.