ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI’s policies may lead to the "cancellation" of 50 years of interfaith dialogue, the chief rabbi of Venice said.
Rabbi Elia Enrico Richetti also announced that Italy’s rabbis will boycott the Italian Catholic Church’s annual celebration of Judaism.
In an article published Tuesday in the Jesuit magazine Popoli, Richetti said a key reason that the Assembly of Italian Rabbis decided to pull out of the Jan. 17 "Day of Judaism" was the reintroduction last year of a Good Friday Latin prayer for the conversion of Jews.
"If we add to this the recent positions taken by the pope about dialogue, said to be useless because the superiority of the Christian faith is proven anyway, then it’s evident that we’re heading toward the cancellation of the last 50 years of Church history," he wrote, adding, "The interruption of cooperation between Italian Judaism and the Church is the logical consequence of the position of the Church as expressed by its highest authorities."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of dialogue with the Jews, expressed "surprise" at Richetti’s accusation. Benedict, he said, "never said or thinks" that dialogue is useless.
Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Italian Bishops’ commission on interreligious dialogue, said the history of Jewish-Catholic relations could not just be "canceled."
"If there are difficulties, which undoubtedly there are in Italy, they should become an occasion to recast the dialogue even more strongly," he said.
Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, agreed.
"Jewish-Christian dialogue is a process that must go forward despite difficulties," he said.