Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Cardinal Pell on Jewish-Christian Understanding — & on Islam

Above and below are photos of Cardinal George Pell, then Archbishop of Sydney, when leading a large group of Catholic pilgrims bound for Europe via Egypt and the Holy Land; in the second one he is entering Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, which according to local folklore rests on the site where Pharoah's daughter found the infant Moses. In the years since that pilgrimage, Cardinal Pell has entered a figurative version of what a famous "negro spiritual" of course dubs "Egypt Land", seen as a place of exile and woe.  And, with good reason, for many people in this country and outside it believe Australian "justice" should be in the dock.

He has been long loathed by leftists and secularists, mercilessly targeted by journalists with childish insults aimed at his person and his faith and with obsessive character assassination that has rightly left many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, doubting that he could ever have got a fair trial; indeed, his conviction on the uncorroborated testimony of a single witness has dangerous implications for all Australians.

Here, in order to dispel the impression fostered in some quarters that Cardinal Pell, who has been vilified perhaps more than any other public figure in Australian history, lacks sympathy for the Jewish People, let's remind ourselves of a speech he gave in Sydney on 14 May 2001, on the topic"Christians and Jews: The way ahead":

'Last night Rabbi David quoted the Jewish saying that after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, the gift of prophecy is dead; so that those who claim to prophesy are either babes or fools. Despite this, both of us have been condemned tonight, to talk on "the way ahead", but my ambitions are very limited for a number of good reasons. A bishop has to be planning for tomorrow, although Jesus himself told us not to worry too much. Tomorrow can take care of itself, we have worries enough today! And in the Catholic community there are scattered individuals who are so busy preparing for the future that they ignore and neglect today's responsibilities.

I speak too as one less wise; my normal condition, but in this case without extensive experience of ongoing dialogue, deep theological or sociological discussion on this vexed area of Jewish a Christian relations. 

However I pray the psalms every day, with all other Catholic priests; and I love them. I don't know how many priests, especially those suffering or in trouble, who have told me how much the psalms have helped them.

In Rome 35 or 36 years ago our lecturer on the Psalms told us they were unique in any literature. 

These were the years of Vatican II and all such claims were greeted sceptically by many students.

I reserved my judgement and during the later years I have read something of the other great religions and found nothing to equal the Psalms as a body of prayerful literature.

I have come to know and love much more deeply the writings of the great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and especially Ezekiel, the strangest of them all. And I have come lately to study Elijah much more closely. For a long time I didn't understand his top billing among Jews and Christians and with Jesus himself! Now I believe he is particularly important, and for us now, because monotheism was nearly wiped out then by Jezebel and the prophets of Baal.

It was as a seminarian in the early '60s that I first heard a rabbi speak, my friend Rabbi John Levi, and I was upset by his energy and honesty. Then I probably considered him aggressive. I had grown up in a family which was strongly pro-Jewish, especially my father, and I even wondered whether Rabbi Levi's claims about Christian ill treatment were accurate. Further study showed me, only too sadly, that he was basically correct.

Many years ago I wrote a doctorate in history, Christian Church history. I have a respect for the past -  but know how messy and disconcerting and discomforting it can be. I recognise too the difficulty of adequately and accurately presenting the past, but we must face up to what is there, for good or ill. Then we can decide how to deal with it appropriately.

Occasionally people will say to me that the Jews complain too much about their sufferings in the past. Shouldn't we all look more to the future? Usually I reply that if we had lost five or six million of our co-religionists only sixty years ago, after many centuries of intermittent oppression of our minority status, then our sensitivities would be quite different too. I have visited Dachau and Auschwitz; terrible reminders of an unspeakable evil that must never be repeated. It is sobering to think that similar sufferings continued in the Soviet Gulags until fairly recently. In this life evil is never eliminated permanently. 

These different sensitivities were brought home to me recently in trying to develop my views on the proposed anti-discrimination legislation in Victoria. My principal legal adviser was a brilliant young Jewish lawyer, a partner in his firm. While we weren't exactly of one mind when I did take a public position, I was forced to modify my position and certainly came to understand more adequately the attitudes of a smaller minority in a culture which still has a Christian majority and a good deal of Christian instinct, sometimes for ill as well as good, about it. 

I know there are significant differences in the Jewish community too about how effective legislation can be in battling prejudice and discrimination as there are in every section of the community. But I am not opposed to limited, tight legislation outlawing incitement to racial or religious hatred. 

It has been remarked that the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel both changed public opinion in the Western world towards the Jewish People. These were powerful influences on Catholics too; but a particular catalyst for improved relations on the Catholic side came from Pope John Paul XXIII and the Second Vatican Council (1962-5). 

John XXIII unleashed forces that he never dreamed of; he had no developed programme for where he wanted the Council to go; but he had realised, and truly, that the Catholic Church was caught in a suit of defensive armour, which was heavy, and sometimes a hindrance and ineffective in defence as well as attack. The Council provoked a cultural revolution in the Catholic community in the Western world, led by middle order functionaries more than the masses (unlike Mao's cultural revolution), which has sparked great losses in some countries a but there is no doubt that its encouragement of ecumenism among Christians by legitimate Catholic participation, and encouraging inter-faith dialogue and co-operation has been a blessing in every sense.   

As Pope John Paul II said at Assisi in 1986: "Either we learn to walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others". 

I have participated in some of these multi-faith celebrations, as recently as last Monday in the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings for the Centenary of Federation. Afterwards I turned to Rabbi John Levi, who was sitting immediately behind me, and said "Well, the Jewish contribution was the best".  And my communications adviser said to me after: "Yes, and the Christian contribution was probably the weakest". 

For the Jubilee last year we had a memorial service for the victims of the Holocaust in St. Patrick's Cathedral and a number of Jews who were present claimed it was among the most beautiful they had attended.

We need to keep talking together; something that will remain a minority activity. But the attitudes of leaders, official or unofficial, are important in shaping the underlying attitudes of many others, community members and fellow travellers.

We need to keep speaking together, so that we respectfully listen to one another. This is not a ploy to get a message across; nor does it mean that we must agree. Nor does it mean that religious discussion has to abandon claims to truth. We are not condemned to relativism through speaking together; nor are we tacitly recognising that one religion is as good as another; not even claiming that religion is like musical taste, something that is quite difficult to validate!

Recently a man called Ulrich Schoen listed five aims in such a dialogue or conversation:
1) to dissolve [sic; resolve?] misunderstandings;
2) to improve relationships and know we are then better;
3) to lessen fear and suspicion;
4) to deepen faith in one's own religion;
5) to create greater unity and co-operation;
All of these seem to me to be worthwhile for present purposes.

Let me now list a few areas where we might be able to co-operate effectively:
a) to defend and promote belief in the one true God, the unutterable mystery of love. The growth of irreligion in Australia is most significant religious change over the last fifty years, and is part of the modern spread of secularism.
Catholics are not one people like Jews, but a great Church does have a cultural and historical momentum and modern bureaucracies can keep a shell performing efficiently, or seeming to do so. 

The denunciation of prophets bears on this challenge.

Psalm 24 peaks of a "man with clean hands and pure heart standing on the mountain of the Lord". 

In an age devoted to money and sometimes to sexual irresponsibility, the capacity to believe can atrophy. A significant challenge here!
b) Another important area of common effort could be the defence of the family. Patterns of divorce and remarriage; living in partnerships, of children affected by divorce; of increasing numbers of homeless children.
Not difficult to list the challenges, but more difficult to devise effective strategies.

Often not realised is that no country in the Western world is producing a sufficient number of children to keep the population stable. Countries like Russia and Romania, Italy and Spain have started on a process of dramatic population decline.  

Jews and Christians might cooperate together to stress the blessings that children are the continuing importance of motherhood. A bit politically incorrect to do this, but it will be increasingly necessary.
c) Last night Rabbi David mentioned the dialogue between a Rabbi and the King of the Khazars, who pointed out that at that time Jews did not have political power and so were not exposed to the temptations of that power.
That is no longer the case in Israel. I am completely supportive of Israel's right to exist peacefully and regret that the recent initiative for peace has been squandered.

I am not going to comment particularly on developments there; I do not know the scene well enough and my area of responsibility is the Sydney Archdiocese.

But Jewish conduct of that necessary struggle will impinge on the situation of Jews throughout the world; the battle for world opinion is mightily important and racists will try to exploit every ambiguity and especially any explicit injustice.

Christians too regret the steady exodus of fellow Christians from so many parts of the Middle East, forced to migrate because of constant hostile pressures.

During the last 30 or 40 years there has been a significant reduction in the amount of Christian antisemitism.  We thank God for that. To adapt to our circumstances the word of Martin Luther King "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly". Our fortunes, as brothers, are inextricably linked.

The present Pope, John Paul II, has also contributed significantly to the progress and consolidation of Jewish-Christian relations. His visit to the synagogue in Rome, his successful visit to Israel last year; the 1994 Vatican recognition of the State of Israel. By coincidence I was in Rome and present at Castel Gandolfo when the Israeli ambassador first presented his credentials. All these things have helped.

There is no doubt that his years at Wadowice at school with the local Jewish boys and girls; playing together in the same soccer team; seeing their dispersion and execution played an essential role in his leadership in this area.

A particularly poignant moment was when the Pope prayed at the Temple Wall and I will conclude with the written prayer he left in a crevice in this wall:
"God of our fathers, You chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your Name to the nations. We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those, who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the People of the Covenant."
 And what, if anything, has this noted Australian intellectual to say on Islam (a creed, incidentally, which has seen a marked increase in child marriages recently, but which evaded scrutiny by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which spent years probing .
'Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses and obscure cults — along with sporting groups and the entertainment industry'.)

Well, in a talk some years ago entitled “Can Islam and the Western democracies live together peacefully?” (full text here) he
indicated that “Views on this question range from näive optimism to bleakest pessimism,” but that with a far better understanding of Islam and current developments by Christians and world leaders a peaceful co-existence might be achieved.
Pell notes that the optimists “point to the roots Islam has in common with Judaism and Christianity and the worship the three great monotheistic religions offer to the one true God. There is also the common commitment that Muslims and Christians have to the family and to the defence of life, and the record of co-operation in recent decades between Muslim countries, the Holy See, and countries such as the United States in defending life and the family at the international level, particularly at the United Nations.”
However, Pell continues, “On the pessimistic side of the equation, concern begins with the Koran itself. In my own reading of the Koran, I began to note down invocations to violence. There are so many of them, however, that I abandoned this exercise after 50 or 60 or 70 pages”.
The senior Catholic Cardinal warns that the claims of Muslim tolerance of religious minorities are “largely mythical.” He emphasizes history has clearly shown that, “Considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.” However, Pell adds that the human factor of many Muslims being uncomfortable with the violence and harsh intolerance of traditional Islamic practices provides hope for positive change as has occurred in more moderate Muslim nations.
The secularists in the West, indicates Pell, are the mostly poorly equipped to comprehend and respond to today’s explosion of Islamic violence and power. That is because the issue is predominantly one of religion which the secularists do not understand. Pell says, “one example of the secular incomprehension of religion is the blithe encouragement of large scale Islamic migration into Western nations, particularly in Europe.”
Pell emphasizes that the issue is one of religion and can ultimately only be satisfactorily addressed by religion, rather than politics or material power. The vacuum created by the collapse of religious faith in the West has made it especially vulnerable to conquest by a large, strongly committed religious movement.
“Radicalism,” says Pell, “whether of religious or non-religious inspiration, has always had a way of filling emptiness” and if we are going to help moderate forces within Islam the personal consequences of religious faith need to be taken more seriously. Secularism, and the emptiness and despair that it spawns, is “no match for Islam,” warns the Cardinal.
The “disastrous fall in fertility rates,” adds Pell, is “The most telling sign that Western democracy suffers a crisis of confidence”. He provides startling statistics indicating how Islam is easily taking over the West simply by having more children and the West is dying from its suicidal abortion and contraceptive practices.
Pell warns that the issues must be discussed and that participants in “useful dialogue” must “grapple with the truth and in this issue of Islam and the West the stakes are too high for fundamental misunderstandings.”


  1. And since everything the cardinal has said has long attracted the malice of the left, now so jubilant that they've he's been brought down, he has been called an Islamophobe for this kind of thing:
    'Dr Pell said Muslim leaders needed to develop more appropriate responses to criticism.

    "In a democratic society, every group is criticised - Prime Minister (John) Howard said quite rightly last year that if Catholics rioted in Australia every time they were criticised, there would be regular riots," Dr Pell said.

    "It's not appropriate that Muslims regularly reply to criticism with insults, denigration and evasions while avoiding the point of issue, and unfortunately we've seen too much of this from some Muslim public personalities." ...

    Dr Pell, who began studying Islam after the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the US, said he had met "many wonderful Muslims".

    "But there are Islamists who are at war with the Western world - most of the victims of these extreme Muslims are fellow Muslims," he said. "So its important to distinguish accurately your real friends from your enemies and from those who only seem to be friends."

    Dr Pell said there was a small minority of Muslims "who really don't identify with Australia at all and are hostile to it". "There seems to be some significant evidence that some of them are planning violence against us here and elsewhere - that doesn't seem to happen in any other migrant group," he said.

    Sydney Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali sparked controversy last year when he compared immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat and suggested that rape victims who did not wear Islamic dress were as much to blame as their attackers.

    He later appeared on Egyptian television to say Westerners were "liars and oppressors" who had less right to live in Australia than Muslims.

    Dr Pell said a fear of Muslims had been "created" by the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the attacks on London transport in 2005. He said Muslims in Australia were offered the same rights as other citizens but he doubted non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world were afforded the same equality.

    "I don't think that's the case. I don't think we could be having a meeting like this in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia," he said.

    "Christians are being harassed, they're being persecuted and even sometimes in the Sudan being sold into slavery. I would like to know where my Muslim friends stand on this issue."

    Sheik Mohammed Omran, from Melbourne's Islamic Information and Support Centre, said it was important to consider why Muslims were fighting against the West. "Why has the youth of England betrayed England even though they are fifth or sixth generation?" Sheik Omran said. "We have to learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat it here."

    Sheik Omran said Australia had a responsibility to make Muslims feel welcome.

    "You are the host. When I come to your house as a guest and you welcome me with an open heart, I see your generosity as a human - it doesn't matter what I believe in, I will love you and care for you as much as you care for me," he said.

    Muslim countries had been great allies of the West during the fight against "our first enemy", communism, and Australia still had a close alliance with Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, Sheik Omran said.'

  2. If we all worship the same God, then the issue with Islam is the writings or transcription of its main prophet. If someone stays in that religion, knowing there are other approaches to the same God without all the hate and calls to violence, I realize there are cultural and informational resistances, and Is'am's threat that they'll try to kill anyone who leaves, but still it says something.


    Cardinal Pell could not have been convicted under Torah law.

    This week's Torah reading is Shoftim, meaning Judges, so named because it opens with a requirement to appoint judges as Moshe [Moses] outlines the system of justice to apply in the Land of Israel.

    One of the principles is stated as follows [Devarim/Deuteronomy 19:15]
    "One witness shall not rise up against any person for any iniquity or for any sin, regarding any sin that he will sin. By the mouth of two witnesses, or by the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be confirmed."

    The Torah specifies a standard higher than Australian law, namely a minimum of two witnesses if a person is to be convicted on the basis of testimony.

    We are also taught that outside Israel that the "law of the land is the law" and we are to respect and work with the legal systems as they exist.

    This is NOT a comment on the merits of the Pell case but just an observation that he was convicted on the testimony of one witness, whereas Torah requires at least two.

    Shabbat shalom to all our members, supporters, readers and the entire community. In honour of the official visit of PM Netanyahu to Hebron and the forthcoming visit of the AJA Israel tour, we provide the pic below.…/a.1368969070493…/541414173264307/


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