The more things change, the–errrr, what?

On January 26, 1904, Theodor Herzl had an audience with Pope Pius X in the Vatican to seek his support for the Zionist effort to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. He recorded his account of the meeting in his diary.*

I briefly placed my request before him. He, however, possibly annoyed by my refusal to kiss his hand, answered sternly and resolutely:

“… [We cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem—but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people].”

Hence the conflict between Rome, represented by him, and Jerusalem, represented by me, was once again opened up.

At the outset, to be sure, I tried to be conciliatory. I recited my little piece about extraterritorialization, res sacrae extra commercium [holy places removed from business]. It didn’t make much of an impression. Gerusalemme, he said, must not get into the hands of the Jews.

“And its present status, Holy Father?”

“I know, it is not pleasant to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with that. But to support the Jews in the acquisition of the Holy Places, that we cannot do.”

I said that our point of departure had been solely the distress of the Jews and that we desired to avoid the religious issues.

“Yes, but we, and I as the head of the Church, cannot do this. There are two possibilities. Either the Jews will cling to their faith and continue to await the Messiah who, for us, has already appeared. In that case they will be denying the divinity of Jesus and we cannot help them. Or else they will go there without any religion, and then we can be even less favorable to them.

The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of Christ, and we cannot concede it any further validity. The Jews, who ought to have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, “That’s what happens in every family. No one believes in his own relatives.” But I said instead: “Terror and persecution may not have been the right means for enlightening the Jews.”

But he rejoined, and this time he was magnificent in his simplicity:

“Our Lord came without power. Era povero [He was poor]. He came in pace [in peace]. He persecuted no one. He was persecuted.

He was abbandonato [forsaken] even by his apostles. Only later did he grow in stature. It took three centuries for the Church to evolve. The Jews therefore had time to acknowledge his divinity without any pressure. But they haven’t done so to this day.

“But, Holy Father, the Jews are in terrible straits. I don’t know if Your Holiness is acquainted with the full extent of this sad situation. We need a land for these persecuted people.”

“Does it have to be Gerusalemme?”

“We are not asking for Jerusalem, but for Palestine—only the secular land.”

“We cannot be in favor of it.”

“Does Your Holiness know the situation of the Jews?”

“Yes, from my Mantua days. Jews live there. And I have always been on good terms with Jews. Only the other evening two Jews were here to see me. After all, there are other bonds than those of religion: courtesy and philanthropy. These we do not deny to the Jews. Indeed, we also pray for them: that their minds be enlightened. This very day the Church is celebrating the feast of an unbeliever who, on the road to Damascus, became miraculously converted to the true faith. And so, if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we shall have churches and priests ready to baptize all of you.

In other news

“The fourth pope to visit Israel, Francis had earlier became the first to lay a wreath at the tomb of Theodor Herzl, seen as the founder of modern Zionism that led to Israel’s foundation.”

Because hermeneutic of continuity.

* Raphael Patai, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, translated by Harry Zohn (New York/London: Herzl Press, Thomas Yoseloff, 1960), 1601-1605.


About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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6 Responses to The more things change, the–errrr, what?

  1. Pope Saint Pius X and Rafael Cardinal María José Pedro Francisco Borja Domingo Gerardo de la Santíssima Trinidad Merry del Val y Zulueta (now that is a name) were the last two great Catholic Prelates (The Cardinal nixed the Friends of Israel movement) whose interaction with the Jews was, in my very limited mind, a model for the rest of time whereas what we have now is the Church attempting a political praxis which has veiled our mission behind platitudes.

    In Acts we read about the first Pope and the Apostles visiting Synagogues and the homes of Jews preaching Christ and conversion whereas now we have popes visiting Synagogues and apologising for the actions of long dead Christian Catholics whereas V2 counsels us to forget the past when it comes to Mahometans (OK, I will leave-out the kitchen sink in this complaint) and so, yes continuity is everywhere to be seen and, in fact the more it is asserted the less it is observable.

  2. O, I forgot to add that Rafael Cardinal Maria del Val told petitioners to take a long walk on a short pier when they asked for changes in the Real Mass because the Jews didn’t like the Good Friday Prayers.

    I am four square behind that and I only wish (maybe he did, who knows?) that he told the Jews that we would change our worship to please them the day after they repudiated the Talmud and changed their service.


    For readers interested in a bit of background to The Pope Cardinal, and Friends of Israel (FOI) . It ought be observed that the false accusations made by the U Brown Professor are propagandistic lies but he is right about the Pope and Cardinal reigning-in the runaway F.O.I. (Yeah I know it shares the same acronym with the Fruit of islam) and for very good reason.

    Now, that was not that long ago but look at the complete about face since then and try to tell me about continuity.

  4. susan says:

    Thanks for this post Codgitator…..excellent!….gave me an even deeper love for the great Pius XII. It reads with the clear, crisp peal of truth, and the kindness and love of Catholicism’s first concern for the salvation of souls. The Gospel’s ‘hard sayings’ cut between the sinew and bone, and those who cannot/willnot see their Truth, disparage them (and those who promulgate them) as hateful.

    Alphonse Ratisbonne….pray for us.

  5. Pingback: Pope denounces Kasper bigamy proposal! | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

  6. tantamergo says:

    Very informative. Thank you so much for sharing.

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