Vatican Proposes Open Channel for Talks with Israel

Published June 30th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Officials at the Vatican are proposing that a permanent mechanism for consultations between the Vatican and Israel. The proposal came up Thursday at a meeting of the Forum for Inter-Religious Dialogue headed by Government Secretary Yitzhak Herzog, reported Haaretz Friday. 

The paper said that the consultations aim at reducing sensitivities arousing from any decisions taken on the part of one side or the other.  

The forum was set up following Pope John Paul II's visit to Israel, and convened Thursday for the first time at the Jerusalem Van Leer Institute. Among the participants was the Papal Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, said the Israeli daily. 

The idea for the "hot line" like mechanism was first proposed in the wake of criticism expressed by Rabbi David Rosen, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League in Israel, about the Pope's plan to beatify Pope Pius IX - and to do so on the same day that he canonizes Pope John XXIII, who established the first ecumenical conference with the Jews, winning the heart of worldwide Jewry. 

The 19th century Pope Pius IX is known by Jews for his role in the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, one of eight children of a Jewish family. He was secretly baptized, when he was ill, by the Catholic servant who worked in the Mortara home, according to Haaretz. 

On June 23, 1858, when he was 6 years old, the Vatican Guard came to his home and forcibly separated him from his parents to give him a Christian education. Canonical law at the time required the church to take responsibility for all baptized children, the report added.  

All attempts to have the child returned to his family, including the intervention of Sir Moses Montefiore, failed. Pius IX said that the pleadings by the Jews were an anti-Catholic conspiracy. He took Mortara under his wing and made him his protégé. Mortara became a Catholic priest and eventually changed his name to Pius Mortara. 

Rabbi Rosen was quoted Thursday as saying that it was not "up to the Jews" to tell the Catholic Church whom it should canonize, but if the church is sincere in its desire to embark on a new era of dialogue and mutual respect, in which it will be sensitive to the Jews, "there must be a kind of dialogue in which they are aware of our sensitivities and consult with us."  

He said that the intention to canonize Pius IX on the same day as Pope John XXIII (September 3, 2000) constitutes an injury, "First of all to the status of Pope John XXIII and secondly to us, as they are bringing Pope Pius IX, who forced baptism, in through the back door." 

At Thursday’s conference, church sources stressed the need to bring Pope John Paul II's message of reconciliation between Christianity and Judaism to the rest of the ranks of the church. They said that meetings should be held in both Israel and in Rome of all the bishops involved in relations with Israel to discuss the question of how to turn the Pope's position into the attitude of the church as a whole, according to Haaretz –  



© 2000 Al Bawaba (

You may also like