Pope’s Views on Israel, Jerusalem
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Pope’s Views on Israel, Jerusalem

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Pope John Paul I, who formally inaugurated his reign at the Vatican yesterday, expressed the view six years ago that the age-old hostility of the Catholic Church toward Jews still exists. He also supported Israel’s right to exist and indicated that he opposed the internationalization of Jerusalem.

The opinions held by the new Pope when he was Albino Cardinal Luciani of Venice were contained in an interview with Maariv correspondent Geula Cohen published on December 8, 1972 and recently re-printed in the daily. Cohen, now a Herut MK, said the subject of the Church’s attitude toward Jews arose when Cardinal Luciani observed the Star of David she wore on her neck. Indicating the crucifix he was wearing, she asked, “Is there a was between these two ?” He replied, according to the article, “Between you and me, as human beings, no. But between the Star of David and the crucifix, yes.”

The Cardinal noted that he personally favored the existence of the Jewish State. He told Cohen, “I certainly view favorably the return of the Jews to Palestine and believe that after being dispersed for all these years, they are at least entitled to a state of their own.”

He cautioned, however, that the Pope must distinguish between his personal views and public statements. “I for my part have no doubt that there is a link between the Jews and Palestine,” he said, “but the Pope, even if he so wished, could not have said, in my opinion, that Palestine belongs to the Jews for that would have been a political statement.”


He explained to the Israeli correspondent at the time, “The Church does not exist on a desert island. It functions in a world where political and economic interests are also at work.” He noted “with regret” the political pressures exerted on the Church to support the internationalization of Jerusalem.

According to the Maariv interview, the Cardinal said, “The Church does not wish to control Jerusalem, only to worship in the holy places. I know that the Pope’s (Pope Paul VI) position favors Jerusalem’s internationalization. If I try to understand him I understand him thus: Since Jerusalem has always been the center of conflict, if the city were to be internationalized, this would bring the nations together,” he said.

The Cardinal also spoke of the Church’s need to consider the interests of Catholics throughout the world. “It is true that there are not many Catholics in the Arab countries, but it is precisely that reason that they are in a delicate position and we cannot abandon them,” he said.

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