Journey to the Holy Land
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RAY SUAREZ: Joining us now are Yvonne Haddad, Professor of History at the Center for Muslim-Christian understanding at Georgetown University; Susannah Heschel, chair of the Jewish Studies program at Dartmouth College; Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame– he is also the author of “The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation”– and Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Middle East History and director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago.
Susannah Heschel, certainly the active repentance of a few weeks ago raised expectations about the Pope’s visit to Yad Vashem. What do you make of his words today?
SUSANNAH HESCHEL, Dartmouth College: First of all I have to say that it was a deeply moving experience to hear the Pope come to Yad Vashem and speak about Jewish suffering using the words of the Bible and with such empathy. It was a historic event. It’s going to be mentioned in textbooks of Jewish history that go from Abraham to the 21st century — this day that the Pope came to Yad Vashem. And I think for Catholics it was extremely important. Worldwide they heard their Pope affirm the validity of Judaism and speak about Jewish suffering. It was a lesson for them, but for Jews, it was for many Jews problematic. This Pope has been at the forefront of Catholic-Jewish relations, so Jews expected him to go a little further today. Some Jews has hoped for an apology for the Holocaust. And other Jews just hoped for an expression of responsibility for the Vatican and for Pius XII and his deeds during the years of the Holocaust and they were disappointed.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, it’s an old institution the Catholic Church. Incrementalism is often the way to go. After you heard the Pope earlier this month, do you think it was really setting the table for something much more serious that you were looking for?
SUSANNAH HESCHEL: Yes, an articulation of specific responsibility. He spoke today specifically about Christians who acted heroically during the Holocaust to saves Jews but he might have also spoken about those who failed to save Jews — those who failed to hear the cry of the Jews during the war years. And we had hoped for that, yes. And that was a disappointment.
RAY SUAREZ: Scott Appleby, your reaction to the address at Yad Vashem?
SCOTT APPLEBY, University of Notre Dame: Two things: The Pope is not the only, he is the prominent spokes person for the Catholic Church but he has inaugurated a dialogue. The International Theological Commission, which issued a document two weeks ago, was much more specific about the failures of the Catholic Church. Second point is I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the Pope to criticize his predecessor openly and publicly because it’s not far from that kind of criticism to those who would want the entire institution of the Church and, in fact, Catholics, themselves, to apologize for their existence. There is no question in Catholics’ minds that Pope Pius XII made errors and that the Church wasn’t as courageous as it should have been. But there is also a risk here the Pope takes in opening the Catholic Church up to all its opponents who would say we were right all along, the Church is nothing but an instigator of hatred and violence — and to criticize his predecessor that way would I think in that public forum be going too far.
RAY SUAREZ: Rashid Khalidi outside the two groups that see themselves as most directly implicated in the event like the one at Yad Vashem today, is there going to be much of a reaction?
RASHID KHALIDI, University Of Chicago: Well, I think that there will be a reaction to all the other things the Pope has been doing on this trip. Each day he seems to be making history, to be making statements that speak to important political issues even though this is a personal, spiritual pilgrimage. The very fact that he has visited the Palestinian territories – the very fact that he is in Israel by and of itself I think has enormous importance. The fact that he will be taking steps in Jerusalem in the next couple of days which in different ways will be seen as reinforcing the position of the Church, as far as the international status of the city and final status negotiations or the positions of either Israel or the Palestinians, I think will have great significance. There is no question that what he said today at Yad Vashem was of great importance but it will have importance primarily I think to Jews and Catholics. The other things that he will be doing and has been doing have importance to all Israelis, all Palestinians and I think people who are interested in peace in the Middle East.
RAY SUAREZ: Why? Why is there such a focus on what will this man says and does in a place in the world where there are very few of his own –
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, it’s the place where Christianity original natures. What he is doing and saying I think reinforces the links I think between the monotheistic religions – not only Judaism but also Islam. However, he is the head of a major institution. The Church has over a thousand schools, churches, orphanages, and so forth, for which it’s responsible in the Holy Land. And as a temporal ruler, the Pope is and has been in these negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians over the last couple of years careful to make sure that he cemented the position of the Church. Finally, the Pope has enormous moral authority speaking out about Palestinian suffering as he did yesterday or about Jewish suffering as he did today, he spotlights — he underlines in a way perhaps no one else in the world today can, important moral issues.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Haddad what do you think about that, does the Pope have the power to actually move things in this part of the world?
YVONNE HADDAD, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University: I think what he did was he highlighted to the word there is a presence of Christians over there which most of the world had forgotten. I think that he hasn’t done enough for them. They would have expected that had he would have done more. For example, he talked about Palestinian homeland and out of state. He did mention the fact that the Palestinians both Christians and Muslims have a stake in Jerusalem. I think what he did today was very important. What he did yesterday was very important. But there are many people in the Middle East who are still unhappy and it’s not only the Jews who think that he hasn’t done enough; it’s the Christians who think he hasn’t done enough and Muslims who think he hasn’t done enough.
RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned the use of the word homeland instead of state for a Palestinian entity. Why is something like that so important and if he had used the word “homeland — “state,” rather, wouldn’t it have been seen as a tremendous departure from where the negotiations have gotten so far?
YVONNE HADDAD: The thing is we’re hung up on the negotiations. There have been so many statements by the United Nations that have specifically said that the Palestinians deserve a state and the negotiations seem to be eating away from it, and there is a need to bring to the attention of the world that there are so many Palestinians who are still outside of Palestine. Some are in the refugee camp. Some of the refugees he visited but there are Palestinians who are stranded in Lebanon that the world has forgotten about, and it is, you know, it is a fact that there are some Arab Christians and Muslims who are still waiting for the Jewish people to apologize for what they have done to the Palestinians. I mean, he apologized to the Jewish people for the Holocaust, but, you know, the Holocaust did not end in Europe. It also is playing out in the lives of the Palestinian people. And they feel that they are paying a price for it. And so if you look at some statements that came out of, you know, Egypt today and some of the Palestinians, they are asking for, you know, somebody like the chief rabbi of Israel to apologize. You know, some people are asking why didn’t the Pope go to another area which is the site of a Jewish — the Israeli where they massacred the Palestinians. There are a lot of issues that came up in which he was trying to balance his treatment of Jews, Muslims and Christians but it really is such a political area and everything he did has some ramifications. Therefore, there are some Christians who are still unhappy and there are Muslims who are unhappy.
SCOTT APPLEBY: Could I make a point -
RAY SUAREZ: Go ahead.
SCOTT APPLEBY: I think we misread the Pope’s visit when we cast it exclusively in political terms. Of course what the Pope says and does has political ramifications and implications, but he is not primarily a negotiator of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is not going to get into specifics of statehood. What — but he is extraordinarily influential on the level of culture. And that is what this pilgrimage is about. It’s reaching out to Muslims and Jews, to the religious actors in the region. And it’s true — Catholics are in the minority – but because this Pope is very much in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which proclaimed the dignity of all people in the image of God, he wants to build peace from the bottom up from the religious traditions. That is his focus. He is not there to negotiate the political details of the settlement.
RAY SUAREZ: But if we are to take that as face value, isn’t there a risk inherently involved in having such a full schedule which goes to places that crick on the sensitivities of the three groups that is focused on that part of the world?
SCOTT APPLEBY: There is no question that it is a risky and some would say courageous series of events that have been carefully planned precisely to underscore the dignity of these various groups and religious bodies and peoples. The Pope is always sympathizing with the suffering on all sides because he wants to reach to that common core of humanity, which is the source of possible negotiations and reconciliation.
RAY SUAREZ: Susannah Heschel talk a little bit about that balancing act because obviously this is being watched closely inside Israel by rank and file Israelis on the street.
SUSANNAH HESCHEL: Yes, it is. And for a long time Israelis haven’t been very interested in Christianity or in the Vatican or Catholic politics. So this is bringing to the attention of Israelis Christianity and in a very serious way for the first time. But I’d have to say that the common core of humanity that the Pope wants to bring together can’t be reached without the very specific differences articulated first. And that is part of the problem. The question of apology is something I would like it address for a moment. There are some Jerusalem who feel that the Pope should apologize for the Holocaust because unfortunately there are some Jews who look at a cross and see a swastika. They confuse the Nazis with the Vatican. They confuse the perpetrators with the bystanders. There is an important distinction that has been to be made. What the Nazis did is one thing. What the Vatican did is another question actually and what the Pope really needs to do at this point is to open Vatican archives so that historians can determine finally what exactly Pius XII did or didn’t do, what his intentions were, and so forth, and what also happened at the end of the war. Why is it that so many Vatican officials helped former SS officers flee Europe and escape to South America? Why did that happen?
SCOTT APPLEBY: But to have the Pope apologize to for the Holocaust would reinforce the tendencies you are describing to equate Catholicism and Christianity -
SUSANNAH HESCHEL: Yes, it would.
SCOTT APPLEBY: And I think that’s not legitimate.
SUSANNAH HESCHEL: I don’t want to see an apology. For one thing, I don’t think that an apology is commensurate with the horror of the Holocaust; it’s just not appropriate and if the Pope were to apologize, then to whom — not to me as a Jew. He would have to apologize to the people who were murdered. I can’t accept an apology on his behalf. Nor are Jews really prepared to accept an apology and offer forgiveness — would be inappropriate. So I agree. Instead of an apology, we should simply have an opening of the Vatican archives so that we can articulate the responsibility — what exactly happened.
RAY SUAREZ: Rashid Khalidi, let’s go back to the Pope’s trip and look at some of these balancing acts that he is performing. This is a sensitive time in the Middle East. You got President Clinton talking with Hafez Al Assad–
RASHID KHALIDI: On Sunday, right.
RAY SUAREZ: And some — a renewal of talks between the Palestinian authority and the Israeli government — a tough time to be there even if you are saying I’m not a politician. No?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, it’s a tough time to be there. But it is a millennium. It is the jubilee. It is a time that the Pope had to make, in his view, the spiritual pilgrimage. And the Vatican has interests in Jerusalem, which is one of the key issues that is about to be negotiated between the Palestinians and the Israelis and I think one of the things that the Vatican has been saying in its recent pronouncements on this — and I think the Pope has been reinforcing it, I agree with Scott — the Pope has been trying not to make overtly political statements, but in his actions and in the meetings that he has had it has been very clear he has been trying to reinforce the Vatican’s position that this is not an issue which concerns only Palestinians and Israelis; it is not an issue that concerns only Muslims and Jews. It is an issue that concerns the Catholic Church. The Vatican has a position on Jerusalem which is somewhat different from the Israeli position and he hasn’t actually explicitly stated that during the trip — nor do I expect him to do that, but by the symbolism of where he has gone and who he has seen — by the kinds of statements he has made at different places I think he has tried to underscore the idea that the Vatican and the international community consider that they have a voice or should have a voice in the way in which the issue of Jerusalem is settled. Nobody I think disagrees with the fact that it is the capital for the two peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis, but it is holy to people of three faiths, the Jews, the Christians and to Muslims.
RAY SUAREZ: Yvonne Haddad, do you expect to see fallout from the trip in the coming year in that part of the world?
YVONNE HADDAD: I don’t know about fallout but it seems to me that there are some people who are asking some, you know– it rubbed people the wrong way in some places and they are asking some very critical questions. How come there was no apology for the Crusades, which were called for about 900 years ago and have never been revoked — how come there was no apology for the Inquisition in which there was not a single Muslim left in Spain.
SCOTT APPLEBY: Nor a single Jew.
YVONNE HADDAD: Nor a single Jew. So that you know, there are a lot of other things one could apologize for.
SCOTT APPLEBY: Although the document of the International Theological Commission that the Vatican issued, that I referred to earlier does mention specifically the Crusades and the Inquisition.
YVONNE HADDAD: That’s right. But the same document also makes a difference between the relationship of the Catholic Church to the Jewish people and the relationship of the Catholic Church to the Muslims. The Muslims are esteemed — Jewish people are our dear brothers. So for Muslims looking at the document, there is a distinction and this distinction sort of has ramifications on the local Christians in the Middle East because it sort of makes the Muslims and the Christians appear to be in conflict.
RAY SUAREZ: Yvonne Haddad, guests, thank you very much.