Tuesday, May 03, 2005


This isn't the entire message. I didn't get permission, so I only swiped part of it. It is quite a sermon though.

I have an announcement to make. If you know anything at all about Jewish
history, then hear me well, for this is an incredible announcement. There
was an amazing story that appeared in the papers yesterday. It is a two part
story, and I am not sure which part is the most amazing. The first part of
the story came from the Italian news agency, Ansa. It said that Pope
Benedictus XVI invited the chief rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, to
be his guest at his official installation as the new pope, which will take
place tomorrow.
Let me stop there for a moment, and say that again: Pope Benedictus XVI
invited the Chief Rabbi of Rome to be his guest at his official installation
as the new pope. Let me ask you: what would your grandparents and mine have
said if they heard that the Pope, the leader of more than a billion
Catholics, had issued a formal invitation to the chief rabbi of Rome to be a
guest of honor at his coronation? I think that they would have been stunned.
For in their lifetimes, such a thing would have been inconceivable. Do I
have to tell you for how many centuries and in how many ways the Catholic
Church demonized and persecuted and mistreated the Jews? Do I have to tell
you about the blood libels and about the number of times when mobs, fired up
by the sermons that they heard on Easter Sunday, broke into Jewish homes and
pillaged? Do I have to tell you that, according to the Taz, it is advisable
to drink white wine instead of red wine at the Seder because of the blood
libel? And we have lived to see the day when a pope invites the chief rabbi
of Rome to be his guest at his coronation? Surely our ancestors would have
recited the Shehechiyanu at such a momentous event in our history. This is
not a moment to be taken for granted. History was made today.
Let no Jew grumble and let no Jew complain that this pope comes from
Germany or that, in his childhood, he was part of a Nazi youth group. Bite
your tongue, and do not repeat such calumnies. For you should know that this
pope was instrumental in writing the declaration on the relationship of the
church to the Jewish people that was issued by the Vatican. And you should
know that this pope came out of his childhood with an understanding of what
Nazism is and that he has opposed it ever since. And you should know that no
one has the right to label him or condemn him without knowledge. This is a
pope who, on the first day of his pontificate, in his first statement to the
College of Cardinals, announced that he wants to have dialogue with other
faiths. And this is a pope who has invited the chief rabbi of Rome to be his
guest at his coronation. And therefore, let us all wish him well and let us
pray that he will be able to continue in the footsteps of his predecessor.
And now, the second part of the story, one which I think is as just
astonishing as the first part. Do you know what the Chief Rabbi of Rome did
when he got the invitation to attend the coronation of the new Pope? The
Chief Rabbi of Rome responded to the invitation from the Pope and said,
respectfully, but clearly: thank you, but no thank you. He wished the Pope
very, very well and said that he and his people would be praying for him on
this day. And he thanked him for the invitation. But he explained that this
Sunday, the day of the installation of the Pope, is the first day of Pesach,
and therefore he will be with his people at services and so he regrets that
he cannot attend. What would our ancestors have said to that? There was a
time when, if a pope or a cardinal or a bishop or a priest invited Jews,
they came-whether they wanted to or not. They came out of fear. But now,
this rabbi feels free enough that he can turn down the invitation. For him,
Pesach has priority over the pope's installation. And by demonstrating that,
he is teaching us what it means to be a free man.

It certainly does give one something to think about.

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