Fallible Pontifications…writes Michael Kuttner

May 30, 2014 by J-Wire
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The just concluded visit of Pope Francis was always going to be a media spectacle and an opportunity for the Palestinian Arab Authority and its religious leaders to stage pre planned theatricals.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

The Pope himself has a history of close connections with the Jewish Community in Argentina and we all know that not only are some of his best friends Jewish but that he can also claim to have a few Rabbi buddies as well.

However the Vatican has its own agenda and despite solemn assurances prior to the visit that this was going to be a pilgrimage of faith without any political side effects anyone with the slightest inkling of reality could have predicted that political gestures would indeed be the order of the day. It is important to remember that the Vatican only recognized Israel in the early 1990’s, having embraced Arafat already some years earlier as the saviour of the newly minted Palestinian Arab narrative. One also has to be realistic and understand that two thousand years of Catholic delegitimisation of Jews and Judaism will not be erased from the minds and theology of its followers over night, no matter how many confessions of contrition are promulgated from on high. Then there is the reality that the Vatican has always had a political agenda in which the claims of the Jewish People to be independent in their ancient homeland proved to be a stumbling block as it tried to appease Islamic countries.

All these considerations need to be taken into account when discussing the Papal visit to Jordan, the PA and Israel, which incidentally is often substituted by the “Holy Land” thus avoiding potentially awkward stances. Indeed until official recognition was forthcoming the Vatican studiously avoided the name Israel at all possible opportunities. The Vatican however has no problem in using the term State of Palestine which reveals the real political nature of this visit.

The Pope’s first stop was the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Needless to say nobody in the Papal entourage had the temerity to remind King Abdullah about his country’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, Judea and Shomron and the ethnic cleansing of Jews from those areas between 1948 and 1967. Likewise when the monarch waxed eloquent about religious tolerance and freedom the Vatican representatives remained mute about the banning of Jews from the Western Wall and today’s laws in Jordan which effectively excludes Jews from becoming citizens or building a Synagogue there. The Hashemite Monarch is the “guardian” of the Moslem Holy Places in Jerusalem. Apparently nobody sees an irony in this situation.

Next, the Papal road show moved on to Bethlehem where as predicted the locals had prepared a revisionist programme which incorporated everything that is accepted as revealed truth by the international community. From banners proclaiming “the detainees in the occupation’s prisons are pleading for freedom and dignity” to pictures of “martyrs” who have murdered Israeli women and children displayed in the UNRWA refugee camp, as well as tearful photo ops with wives and children of convicted killers plus nauseas accusations against the Jewish State, the charade was in full flight.

The best was yet to come. Stopping at the security wall, His Holiness bowed his head, touched the wall and no doubt prayed. While the media frenzy went into top gear nobody stopped to ask if prayers were being said for the souls of the Jewish victims murdered prior to the wall’s erection. As the Pope did not leave a note we do not know but the desired effect was guaranteed. Then on to Mass in Manger Square where a huge mural behind the Pope depicted baby Jesus wrapped in a keffiyeh. The message was clear – Jesus was a Palestinian and that combined with the wall and references to what happened to him was enough for the message to be conveyed loud and clear. Did the Vatican protest these messages of hate and delegitimisation? Hardly likely. Instead we had the usual platitudes which sound nice but are totally devoid of any reality as to what spews forth each and every day from official PA sources.

The final leg took the visitors to Israel where during the next 24 hours the Pope engaged in a multitude of meetings with Christian and Jewish leaders (lay and religious) and visiting various sites of religious and national significance. Several moments stand out.

In response to the security wall performance in Bethlehem, Bibi Netanyahu insisted on a last minute change and as a result, the Papal group was taken to see the wall erected in memory of all those Israelis who have been murdered by terrorists. The Prime Minister explained how the wall had prevented many more such outrages. I do not know what went through the Pope’s mind at this stage but by the sour look on the face of Shimon Peres I guess he at least was dismayed by this shot of reality amidst a sea of mutual platitudes.

The visit to the Temple Mount was a classic example of how to ignore uncomfortable facts and smother them with myopic visions of fantasy. The Mufti of Jerusalem who denies the existence of the Temple and incites against Jews, Judaism and Israel at every opportunity proclaimed..” peace in the region will only happen when there is mutual respect between the sides. Israel is creating hardships for Palestinians at the site..”  The Pope replied..” may no one abuse the name of G-d through violence and may we work together for justice and peace..”  Two days after the Pope’s departure when Jews tried to ascend to the Temple Mount they were met by a barrage of rocks and projectiles directed at them by Islamic mobs. This is a regular occurrence but needless to say one which the Vatican and international community prefer to ignore.

On his departure there was another round of mutual backslapping and then the Pope pulled the final rabbit out of the hat. He invited Abbas and Peres to the Vatican for a prayer session. It was pointed out that there was nothing political involved but merely an opportunity to engage in prayer for peace. Our soon to retire President could hardly contain his unrestrained enthusiasm for this last Presidential opportunity to perform on the world stage. As a secular socialist I am not quite sure what form his prayers are going to take but one thing is for sure. Rhetoric will soar to the heavens and the continuing incitement of Abbas and his colleagues, by then probably in cahoots with the Hamas terror group, will be ignored and glossed over. The Papal seal of approval will guarantee that this Oscar winning performance contributes to ongoing appeasement by those whose past dismal performances have only produced more Jewish victims.


Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.


2 Responses to “Fallible Pontifications…writes Michael Kuttner”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    What a charade! Whatever Pope Francis thinks and feels about the circus he was involved in, the frenzied, superficial readings of it by the world at large as they project their own biasses onto it will continue the dangerous, tiresome game being played out at the expense of Israel. It’s becoming depressing for its ongoing continuity. I have nothing but contempt for all these game-players.

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    What the Vatican say’s goes….Jorge Mario Bergoglio became a favoured son of John Paul 11, when democracy took over from military rule in 1983 when every thing changed.
    All the while the church was being financially supported by the dicatorship, and all none Catholic education facilities including Jewish were subject to the laws of the land as “patriotic Argentinians” it was mandatory to learn the history of the Catholic church being presented as the chosen spiritual instituation of the land.
    It was good Pope John XX111 who laid the foundations of reconcilliation between the Jews and he was classed as a heritic by his colleagues within the Holy See.
    As ecclesiastical authority Bergoglio kept silent during military rule, until Videla was safely tucked away in jail deserted by his corroborators he then had his “Damascus experience” with the nod of the church needing to mend many bridges for political expediency.
    For his obedience he received his cardinal hat, with a direct passage to Rome in case he lost out and had to make account of himself before the United Nations….Diplomatic Immunity is what it’s called, still being utilized today, even in Australia.

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