Forward magazine, the historic voice of American liberal Judaism, decided to add Bergoglio to the 2013 edition of Forward 50, its annual list of top Jewish-American figures.
The reason for this “endorsement” is party due to an umpteenth attempt to launch an attack on Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI.
As he is not Jewish, Francis has been added to the magazine’s “PLUS” list. The accompanying note included in the Pope’s profile explains the reason why he was chosen: “After eight months as head of the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics (not to mention 10 million Twitter followers), the new pontiff — the first from outside Europe — has made improving relations with the Jewish world a key goal.”
The magazine adds that “the only book he has penned is an extraordinary dialogue with a rabbi who had become fast friends with then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in their native Argentina.”
But amidst all this praise, Forward 50 adds that “It wouldn’t be tough to improve on the tone set by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who refused all access to the Holocaust archives and fast-tracked sainthood for the controversial Pope Pius XII, who many accuse of staying silent in the face of Hitler’s slaughter.”
In doing so the magazine fuels the stereotypical contrast drawn between Poep Francis and Benedict XVI, with this statement on Ratzinger’s relationship with Judaism, which seems discredited by the obvious prejudice shown. The usual reference to Pius XII’s controversial beatification is not missing either.
Forward also makes a completely false statement regarding the Vatican archives: When he was Pope, Benedict XVI opened up the archives making available all material relating to the pontificate of Pius XI and therefore the year 1939 – a crucial period in terms of the Nazi persecution of Jews.
Pacelli was Vatican Secretary of State at the time. Ratzinger’s attitude towards the documents on Pius XII’s pontificate was the same as Wojtyla’s. He said the documents would be made public once the cataloguing process was complete.
In a public statement made during the prtesentation of the Lux in Arcana exhibition, Tarcisio Bertone, who was Secretary of State at the time (in February 2012, when Benedict XVI was still Pope) estimated the waiting period to be a couple of years. This means that even without Francis’ election, the time of the opening of the Pius XII archives was very near anyway.
So the basis of Forward’s accusations against Benedict XVI – who is put across as the obstacle to the opening of the Vatican archives dating back to the Holocaust period - remains unclear.
Another point that should be born in mind, is that the magazine does not quote Benedict XVI’s specific theological pronouncements on the subject. It simply expresses the hope that Francis’ attitude will influence the way in which all Christians view Jews.
Many Jewish observers recognise that Ratzinger went further than any other Pope in this field.
The speeches he gave in Cologne Synagogue in 2005 and in the Great Synagogue of Rome in 2010 are proof of this.