Italian Jewry head raps Vatican in its newspaper


ROME (JTA) — Writing in the Vatican’s official newspaper, the head of Italy’s Jewish community criticized Vatican policy but called for strengthened Catholic-Jewish ties.

Renzo Gattegna, president of the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities wrote in an Op-Ed published Wednesday that as a step toward "continuing with the initiatives dedicated to reciprocal understanding and friendship," it would be "useful, necessary and certainly appreciated" for the Vatican to openly and forcefully renounce "any manifestation of intent aimed at the conversion of the Jews."

This, he said, should be accompanied by the elimination of a recently reinstated Good Friday prayer that seems to call for such conversion attempts.

The removal of the prayer, he wrote, "would be a strong and significant signal of the acceptance of a relationship based on equal dignity and reciprocal respect."

Gattegna’s article, a rarity from a Jewish leader in the official Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano, was highlighted on the front page. It was framed as the latest response to a recent miniseries on state-run Italian television that portrayed controversial World War II Pope Pius XII as working hard to save Jewish lives.

The series has rekindled lively debate in the media over Pius’ role during the Holocaust. Critics accuse Pius of having ignored Jewish suffering, while the Vatican and his supporters, who have put Pius on the path to sainthood, maintain that he worked behind the scenes.

Gattegna said the sainthood process was purely an internal Vatican process in which the Jews did not want to intervene, but he criticized the television series as "hagiographic" and "full of inaccuracies." 

He also renewed calls for scholars to be allowed to complete in-depth research in the Vatican archives on Pius’ reign in order to clarify the facts.

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