Translated by Mary Rizzo from one of Italy’s major national newspapers, La Repubblica.
Vatican City – 29 July 2005
The Holy See does not accept lessons from Sharon’s government, and even less still when they are based upon lies. The reaction of the Vatican to the threats of the Israeli government to promote “other steps” to influence the political line of the new Pope regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was extremely harsh. “The indefensible self-serving accusations launched against Pope Benedict XVI for not having mentioned the terrorist attack of Netanya of 12 July following Sunday’s Angelus”, affirm a note from the Press Office of the Vatican, “should be evident to those who had made them”. The Vatican letter continues, “Perhaps even this has been designed to shift the attention on the claimed silences of Pope John Paul II on the terror strikes against Israel in the past, inventing even that the government of Israel has in the past intervened repeatedly at the Holy See, requesting that the new Pope change his orientation.”
The bitter escalation, the use of terms such as “indefensible”, “self-serving”, “inventing”, “pitiful surprise”, demonstrate that the text is the fruit of an impulse directed by the Secretary of State with the personal placet of Benedict XVI. Ratzinger does not accept intimidations, not even under the form of a Israeli threat to freeze negotiations on the fiscal regime of the Catholic foundations in the holy land, and especially it will not permit that Sharon is attempting to put a wedge between himself and the policies of John Paul II and even less permissible, between himself and a faithful collaborator of popes such as Cardinal Sodano.
Benedict XVI decided to archive the episode of the personal attack launched against himself last Monday. “The case is closed”, Vatican spokesman Navarro Valles was instructed to declare. But in the Israeli newspaper, Jerusalem Post, the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Israel, Nimrod Barkan, (the same who had made a convocation of the Vatican) doubled the dose the next day with explosive affirmations:
“Non condemning the terrorism in Israel has been the policy of the Vatican for years. Now that there is a new pope, we decided to face the question.” Barkan added that if the official protest did not give the expected results, “we will have to evaluate other steps”.
From here, the pope’s decision to react. The Vatican declaration puts in evidence how John Paul II had systematically condemned every terrorist act, then making note how if in certain cases the Vatican could not denounce them it was because “at times they were followed immediately by Israeli actions that were not always compatible with the norms of international law”. Denouncing the terrorist strikes and keeping silent on the unjust repressions was impossible.
“Even in recognising the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” the letter continues, “His Holy Father (Wojtyla) had repeatedly stigmatised with unequivocal words the inadmissibility of violent methods that, through terrorist acts perpetrated against the civilian population of Israel, had impeded initiatives of peace that had been undertaken by wise political forces both of the Israeli and Palestinian people”. It was likewise clearly stated that the position of John Paul II was for the right of Israel to “live in security and peace”.
And here, we come to another stab against Sharon’s collaborators: “The affirmations contrary to historical truth can be an advantage only to those who intend upon fomenting animosity and contrasts, and certainly, is of no use in bettering the situation”. Lastly, the public announcement: just as Sharon’s government does not let anyone else dictate to them the words they must use, “so the Holy See as well will not accept lessons and directives from any other authority regarding the content of its declarations.”
Asia News published an interview with a high level Israeli Franciscan expert on legal relationships between the Catholic Church and Israel on the matter which is of extreme interest, even if it is at moments creepy. Here is an excerpt. Eliminate the rhetoric and propaganda from the surface and something insightful remains to be discovered anyway.
You say that the attacks on the Popes are the work of minor functionaries, contrary to the stated policy of the Head of the Government. Is this possible?
Of course it is. The Prime Minister has been completely preoccupied these days with his extremely important official visit to the President of France, with the controversies and drama surrounding the impending Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, with the Attorney General’s decision to prosecute his son… and I am certain that in no manner could he have been informed of the shocking misbehaviour of some minor functionaries in the Foreign Ministry, who have been trying to demolish one of the most important sectors in the international relations of the State of Israel. What the Premier will do now, whether he will take the initiative in trying to repair the damage, or give cover to the officials, remains to be seen. Past evidence is that Mr. Sharon has understood very well the importance of the relationship with the Catholic Church. This is shown by his promises to Washington about the negotiations, as well as by his earlier decision, also encouraged by President Bush (as well as by the whole Christian world) to cancel his predecessor’s (Barak’s) decision to build a mosque precisely in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Mr Sharon has a chance to isolate the offending officials and to rescue the good name of the State of Israel.