At the Archdiocese’s rededication of a Holocaust memorial menorah, words of “shalom” mixed with sharp denunciations of Holocaust deniers.
A Jewish mourner’s kaddish and Catholic words of “shalom” mixed with passionate condemnations of Holocaust deniers at the re-dedication of the Archdiocese of Boston’s memorial menorah.
Some 200 Catholics and Jews – including several Holocaust survivors – gathered at the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Center in Braintree on Wednesday to mark the restoration of a special Yom HaShoah menorah.
The memorial had been on display at the church’s previous headquarters in Brighton since 2002. The archdiocese moved its headquarters to Braintree last summer.
Amid warm words of shared traditions and deepening spiritual friendship, a top Vatican official and the leader of a national Holocaust survivors group denounced the views of ultra-conservative Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson of Great Britain, who has questioned the Holocaust.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top liaison to the world Jewish community, said the Catholic church should deliver “a decisive no” to such anti-Semitism and to racism.
“We cannot have any place in our church for this,” he said of Bishop Williamson’s views.
Israel Arbeiter, the president of the greater Boston chapter of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, recounted the loss of most of his family at the Treblinka death camp, and his own ordeal working close to the gas chambers and crematoriums at the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.
“Yet Bishop Williamson still denies the truth,” he said. “I wonder if Bishop Williamson knows where my parents and brothers are.”
Pope Benedict XVI stirred outrage in January when he lifted Williamson’s excommunication just days after Williamson said in a TV interview that no more than 300,000 Jews died in the Nazi camps, not six million.
The pope said he took that action with Williamson and three other priests to try and bring a secretive, traditionalist group back into the church fold.
But the move strained Catholic-Jewish relations, and forced Pope Benedict to order Williamson to recant his denial or remain out of full communion with the Catholic church.
Even so, Wednesday’s comments by Cardinal Kasper and Arbeiter showed the controversy still pains Jews and Catholics alike.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley said during his remarks that he scheduled Wednesday’s ceremony in part because of the lingering distress over the controversy.
After the ceremony, Arbeiter said the pope’s subsequent comments have been “in the right direction,” but he said the Vatican should do more – perhaps explicitly say the Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews.
Cardinal Kasper said the pope was saddened by the furor, but he didn’t try to explain away the Vatican’s hasty end of Williamson’s excommunication.
“To me it was so obvious,” the cardinal said of Williamson’s views. “I wish he (Pope Benedict) was better informed.”
Lane Lambert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.