Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Personally, I had neither any interest nor any opinion regarding the recent process that resulted in the selection of a new Pope. Nevertheless, I have to admit that when I heard the choice, I did have an emotional reaction, of sorts, albeit a rather crassly parochial one: Cardinal Ratzinger's elevation, I immediately thought, is obviously "good for the Jews".

Just about any other candidate, elected Pope at this particular moment, would have plenty of reasons to make no end of trouble for Jews: a perceived need to appease virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in Muslim countries, in the name of protecting vulnerable Catholic communities there; desire to participate in Third World international politics--which, these days, teems with anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism--in order to properly represent the huge population of Third World Catholics; or simple recognition of the many eternally sore points of theological and political friction between Catholics and Jews. However, Ratzinger has one very compelling reason not to make trouble: a desire to avoid seeming to the world to be a product of his unattractive past.

Of course, that doesn't mean that he's likely to be much of a help to the world's Jews. But then, not too many sensible Jews ever look to a pope for help. And it's no small comfort that this one--unlike so many of his predecessors--might actually try to refrain from doing much harm.

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