December 27, 2003


VATICAN CITY A top cardinal said in an interview published Sunday that anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe, and he urged constant vigilance to avoid setting out on “the path to Auschwitz.”

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, a Frenchman who has carried out several sensitive diplomatic missions as a personal envoy of the pope, said that despite strong Church condemnation of anti-Semitism, European mentalities were too slow to change.

“The path that leads to Auschwitz is always in front of us and it starts with ‘small’ deficiencies,” Etchegaray said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

“There is a return of anti-Semitism in our Europe,” he added. “Not to recognize it, not to call it by its name is an unwitting way of accepting it.”

Jewish groups in Europe and the United States say that a “new anti-Semitism” has emerged among Muslim youths who threaten or attack their Jewish neighbors out of solidarity with Palestinians battling the Israeli military.

But Etchegaray said resurgent anti-Semitism could not be blamed entirely on the fallout from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting that the phenomenon had developed in Europe over centuries.

Very interesting, given Etchegaray’s history. Perhaps the Vatican is waking up, at last?

Perhaps so, as you can read if you go here, and scroll down to the discussion of the “editing controversy” regarding Pope John Paul II’s “message for the World Day of Peace.” (But don’t miss the bit on Cardinal Martino just above it). Excerpt:

The message bears the title “An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace.” Yet back on July 17, 2003, when the theme of the message was announced in a Vatican news release, it was titled “International Law: The Path to Peace.” That news release can be found here:

Most observers felt that theme had been chosen, at least in part, as an implied criticism of the United States for waging war in Iraq without explicit authorization from the United Nations. Indeed, the Vatican news release made the connection: “The recent war in Iraq,” it read, “manifested all the fragility of international law, in particular regarding the functioning of the United Nations.”

The shift in the document’s title was interpreted by some as a softening of tone towards America and the Bush administration. In combination with other recent developments — such as Cardinal Camillo Ruini’s comment at the funeral for 19 Italians killed in Iraq that terrorism must be confronted “with all our courage,” and the reassignment of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, architect of the Vatican’s anti-war stance — the shift was taken as additional confirmation of a more “realistic” Vatican stance.

Cardinal Martino is quoted as minimizing the significance of the change, but then he would, wouldn’t he?

Italian politics is given as one of the main reasons for the softening tone, but is it possible — perhaps — that the Vatican is actually waking up to the moral dimension of this struggle, and the lack of moral standing on the part of the EU and the UN? One can hope, anyway.

UPDATE: Reader Karl Bock wonders if this may have had something to do with the attitude-shift at the Vatican:

ROME — Terrorists planned to attack the Vatican with a hijacked plane on Christmas Day, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said in a newspaper interview published Saturday.

Berlusconi told Milan’s Libero newspaper of a “precise and verified news of an attack on Rome on Christmas Day.” . . .

The Vatican refused Saturday to respond to questions about a possible Christmas threat.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Double-Hmm. Here’s a report that Berlusconi denies the above quotes.

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