Monday, January 24, 2005

Rabbi Mordechai Gafni Series Part 4: Papal activist or over-the-top media whore


At 6:30 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

September 18, 1987

South Palm Beach County rabbis who attended Pope John Paul II's meeting with Jewish leaders say they are encouraged by the dialogue and add that they will participate in plans for increasing dialogue between local Catholics and Jews.

''It was heartwarming,'' Rabbi Sam Silver said of the meeting. ''It is part of the process of strengthening the bond between Jews and Catholics. I was impressed by the pope. No person of Catholic faith can now sink into bigotry without knowing how their leader feels.''

Silver, of Temple Sinai in Delray Beach, was one of two south county rabbis selected by the Archdiocese of Miami to attend the pope's meeting Sept. 11 with Jewish leaders.

The meeting was jeopardized following the pontiff's audience with Austrian President Kurt Walheim, accused of participating in Nazi war crimes against Jews. But even before the pope arrived in the United States, many Jews had decided to go on with the meeting in Miami.

''I believe it was a moment of spiritual reconciliation,'' said Rabbi Merle Singer of Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, who also was present at the meeting.

''The pope called for an understanding of our diverse ways and a respect for the integrity of various religions. He called on Jews to understand his motives and reasons for talking with the president of Austria and we called upon the pope to understand the Jewish community's sensibilities regarding his meeting with a member of the Nazi party.

''His remarks spoke of the joint responsibility the Jewish and Christian community have in righting the social wrongs of our time.''

Silver and Singer agree that is unrealistic of those analyzing the meeting to expect that the pope would have made an official announcement of recognition of the state of Israel during his whirlwind tour of the U.S.

But both say the pope's statements set the groundwork for what they feel will be an eventual establishment of Vatican diplomatic relations with Israel.

Silver was especially encouraged by the speech of Cardinal Johannes
Willebrands, the Vatican's top interfaith officer, presented at an
interfaith dinner Sept. 10 at the Omni Hotel in Miami.

Willebrand ''elaborated at great length on the fact that these contacts precipitated by the Waldheim encounter will continue to produce a number of documents (from the Vatican),'' Silver said.

''The reaction against the pope on the meeting involved not only protests from the Jewish community, but from Catholics as well, including bishops,'' he said. ''I'm quite confident the Vatican will establish ties with the state of Israel.''

Singer said the meeting ''did not soften any negative feelings in the Jewish community'' among those who boycotted the meeting.

''But that's their agenda,'' he said. ''I feel the appropriate agenda is to open the door for dialogue; not to stand on a street corner and protest.''

While Singer was in the meeting, another Boca Raton rabbi, Mordechai Winyarz, stood on the street corner to protest on behalf of an organization he chairs, the Center for Justice.

Winyarz said he is not against participating in dialogues with Catholics, but would not do so under the conditions of last week's meeting, which he said was ''theatrics'' and not a session of ''true conversation.''

He pointed out that the speech of the Jews' spokesperson, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, had to be submitted to the Vatican prior to its delivery last week, which Winyarz called ''censorship.''

Winyarz also criticized the pope for ''ignoring the Waldheim issue'' and called the pope's comments ''ambiguous.''

There already are signs of the meeting having an impact in South Florida, which has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States and is home to one of the largest Catholic populations in the country.

''The relations here are improving through that remarkable school, St. Vincent de Paul,'' Silver said, referring to the Catholic seminary west of Boynton Beach. ''They've offered lectures and meetings and I've spoken there as a representative of the Jewish community.

''Bishop (Thomas) Daily couldn't be more amicable. He's already sponsored dialogues in the cathedral between Catholic and Jewish leaders.''

Singer said he has met with Monsignor John McMahon, pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish and vicar for social services for the Diocese of Palm Beach, to prepare a program of dialogues on Jewish-Catholic relations.

A joint Catholic-Jewish statement released prior to the papal visit
expressed encouragement over the meeting, while recognizing ''that there continues to exist mutual unresolved problems and prejudices.''

The statement acknowledged an ''environment of mutual respect'' in the local community and called for measures to continue fostering that environment.

September 12, 1987
By JAMES D. DAVIS, Religion Editor

MIAMI -- Pope John Paul II, in a major address on Catholic-Jewish
relations, gave his clearest statement thus far that Jews were the primary targets of the Holocaust.

The pontiff, in a historic speech Friday to 175 national and South Florida Jewish leaders at the Center for the Fine Arts, passionately called the World War II Nazi slaughter a ''ruthless and inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish people ... only because they were Jews.''

The remark was an apparent attempt to allay Jewish fears that the Vatican was trying to ''universalize'' the Holocaust and play down its special victimization of Jews. Many Jews have voiced concern that such an approach might make Catholics less sensitive to anti-Semitism.

The statements were the ''first time any Vatican official has said it with such clarity,'' said Burton Levinson, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, in a news conference afterward.

In his second summit-style meeting with Jewish leaders in a week and a half -- the first was at Castel Gandolfo, his summer home in Italy -- the pope pledged to have his church fight bigotry, teach positive Jewish images in Catholic schools, and explore the historical roots of anti-Semitism.

As for the Holocaust horrors, ''Never again!'' he vowed, to spontaneous applause, the only time his address was so interrupted. The phrase has become a standard rallying cry for world Jewry.

The pope also defended Pope Pius XII, who reigned during World War II, against charges that he remained silent during the Holocaust.

Pope John Paul II said he was ''convinced that history will reveal more clearly and convincingly how deeply Pius XII felt the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to assist them.''

The pontiff spoke on a raised dais in the center, eye-level with Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, head of a group that keeps in touch with Vatican officials. It was a symbolic departure from the pope's usual raised throne.

In his own talk, Waxman mentioned ''recent tendencies to obscure the fact that Jews were the major target of Nazi genocidal policies.'' However, he also said Jewish-Catholic talks are ''one of this century's most positive developments.''

The delegates were a cross-section of mainstream Jewry. They represented the Synagogue Council of America, an umbrella of most U.S. Jewish groups; and the interdenominational American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League.

The Catholic side included several Vatican cardinals, including its
secretaries of state, education and interfaith relations. Also present were Archbishop Pio Laghi, the Vatican's ambassador to the United States, and four American cardinals.

A small group of people demonstrated outside the Spanish-style center. The protesters, some wearing concentration camp garb, waved Israeli flags and placards with slogans such as ''Arafat, Waldheim, what next?''

The protest was over an audience granted by the pontiff on June 25 to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who has denied accusations that he helped deport Jews and partisans when when he was a German army officer in World War II, and one granted in 1982 to Palestinian guerrilla leader Yasser Arafat.

In his address, the pope made no reference to the Waldheim affair, which Waxman said still causes ''pain and distress.'' But the pontiff told reporters on the trip from Rome that it had been his duty to meet Waldheim, since he came ''as a president, democratically elected, of a people, of a nation.''

Although the pope said the Jewish people ''have a right to a homeland,'' the delegates greeted with stony silence his assertion that this ''also applies to the Palestinian people, so many of whom remain homeless and refugees.'' Delegates were only slightly more receptive when he mentioned the ''state of Israel,'' with which the Vatican still has not exchanged ambassadors.

The response was warmer when the pontiff said that the suffering of
Israel's children reminds the church of its common bond with the Jewish people. It was a clear theological rationale for making Holocaust studies a Catholic priority.

The pope repeated his announcement of last week that he was planning a major document on the Holocaust. He also reminded the listeners of a Jewish-Catholic workshop on the significance of the Holocaust, set for December in Washington, D.C. He said it would explore ''religious and historical implications of the Shoah'' for both faiths. ''Shoah,'' which means ''destruction,'' is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

Rabbi Waxman's talk was more specific, urging more attention to ''the Christian roots of anti-Semitism.'' He said the Holocaust was the climax of centuries of bigotry ''for which Christian teachings bear a heavy responsibility.''

Waxman voiced Jewish concern at the lack of full Vatican diplomatic
relations for Israel, a matter that many Jews take as a lack of Catholic understanding of what Israel means to them. The Jewish state often is called a last refuge for persecuted Jews worldwide.

''Obviously, the differences have not been resolved,'' Waxman said. But he acknowledged a Vatican promise to keep in closer touch with Jewish leaders on actions that might affect them.

''We live in an historic moment. The last quarter-century has irreversibly changed the way we perceive and act towards each other,'' Waxman said.

But even among the mainstream Jewish groups, there were signs of divisions. An Orthodox rabbinical group boycotted the Friday dialogue because the previous talks failed to mention the Holocaust and recognition of Israel.

The Orthodox group also forbade Synagogue Council president Gilbert
Klaperman to read the main statement to the pope Friday. Waxman, a
Conservative, got the job instead.

Klaperman came to the meeting, anyway, because ''I felt the process is important and that it must continue.'' Saying that the church had specifically acknowledged Jewish anger, he said the dialogue now must get beyond that.

(Papal pool photo/BRIAN SMITH)Umbrellas shield Pope John Paul II during a rainy Mass that was cut short on Friday in Tamiami Park.

Pontiff listens as Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, of Great Neck, N.Y., a leader of the (Staff photo/ROBERT AZMITIA)Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz of Coalition for Concerned Zionist Activists protests meeting with Jewish leaders. PHOTOS (2, One Color)

Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 11, 1987

The traffic, a sudden illness and the sheer joy of a papal visit all took blame Thursday for dampening -- and in some cases washing out -- a series of demonstrations by TWA flight attendants, AIDS activists and Mariel refugees.

The day's loudest demonstration, an afternoon of sign waving and fund raising for AIDS victims, drew as many journalists as protesters, 75 of each. And only a handful of out-of-work TWA flight attendants turned out to protest the pontiff's use of TWA jets during his 10-day visit to America.

"We had a party and nobody came," said Sonny Wax, an organizer of the Cure AIDS Now demonstration at Vizcaya. "I'm very unhappy. With all the work we put into it, all the days and weeks, nobody came out."

"If someone had told Martin Luther King to give up when he only had a handful of people, we wouldn't have the civil rights act," said TWA flight attendant Sherry Cooper, who said the fear of traffic kept other attendants at home.

The biggest surprise -- and biggest relief to police -- was the daylong calm at clinics that perform abortions. After weeks of threatened pickets and sit-ins, a national anti-abortion group called off its plans Wednesday.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, local spokesman for We Will Stand Up, claimed there was no need for protests because Miami would be "abortion-free" during the pope's two-day visit. He said Metro and Miami police confirmed that clinics would either close or not perform abortions during the pope's visit.

Spokesmen for the two police agencies said later that they made no such guarantees. They said only that an informal, incomplete survey of clinics found no evidence of abortions scheduled.

Even so, Mahoney said that was good enough for his group. Instead of demonstrating, We Will Stand Up decided to unfurl a 40-foot, anti-abortion banner near the airport. But the banner didn't appear when the pope passed through the airport.

A group of Cuban exiles, who planned to call for the release of Mariel refugees held in U.S. prisons, canceled its protest at the last minute. The mother of one of the group's leaders had suffered a stroke, one member said.

The most successful protest occurred hours before the pope arrived. At 8 a.m., nine hard-line rabbis danced, recited psalms and blew three ram's horns -- known as shofars -- in a call for "true dialogue" between Catholics and Jews.

The rabbis strongly criticized last week's Rome meeting between John Paul II and nine Jewish leaders, saying the pope "ducked the issues," said Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz of Boca Raton. The rabbis recited a litany of beefs against the pope -- his audience with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, his refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, his "old charges of
the Jew being a Christ-killer," Winyarz said.

photo: Bob Klein sets up tombstones in aids protest (JOHN PAUL TRIP MIAMI*)

Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 10, 1987
by DEXTER FILKINS Herald Staff Writer

When Pope John Paul II meets with Jewish leaders Friday, Rabbi Mordechai Winyarz will greet him, but not like everyone else. Instead of waving and cheering, the rabbi will shout and walk a picket line -- in the uniform of a concentration camp survivor.

Winyarz, who will join 15 other rabbis in the Miami International Airport protest, has some questions for the pontiff, and he wants them answered:

Why did the pope meet with and praise Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, the former Nazi? Why was the Vatican silent during the Holocaust, when six million Jews perished? Why does the Vatican refuse to open formal diplomatic relations with Israel? Why did the pope embrace the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose group is dedicated to the destruction of Israel?

Winyarz said he is not angry; just suspicious, and driven.

"The pope is playing on both sides of the fence," said Winyarz, 26, rabbi of the orthodox Boca Raton Synagogue. "This is not pope-bashing. I just want to know where he really stands."

To find out, Winyarz and others will don concentration camp uniforms and get as close as they can to the pope when he lands. Tonight, the group will lecture on "the history of church anti- Semitism" outside the Omni Hotel, where the pope and several Catholic leaders will gather. And when Jewish leaders meet John Paul II Friday at the Cultural Arts Center, Winyarz will
be outside.

"It is important that the Jewish leaders are there," Winyarz said. "But it is just as important that we are there to let our leaders know that there is a constituency outside."

To the rabbi, the pope is wading in murky moral waters. Past actions of the church and the pope, he said, raise the specter of anti-Semitism, and as the spiritual leader of 900 million Roman Catholics, the pope is obliged to put the questions to rest.

"(Yassar) Arafat's methodology is killing women and children. Waldheim is a documented Nazi," said Winyarz, whose mother survived the Holocaust. "What does that say when the pope welcomes these men and embraces them?"

For Winyarz, the heart of the matter is whether the church is anti-Semitic. On this, Winyarz is undecided, but he asserts that some actions -- such as the Vatican's refusal to recognize Israel -- suggest that it is.

"The recognition of Israel is, I think, a theological problem," Winyarz said. "The church used to teach that the Jews, as the killers of Christ, are condemned to eternal damnation."

What could Pope John Paul do to placate Winyarz? Simple, said the rabbi:
Recognize Israel, repudiate Arafat and Waldheim and explain the Vatican's behavior during the Holocaust.

Winyarz doesn't think that will happen, but to him, the pope must know. The rabbi does not claim to speak for his congregation, but he is certain that many Jews share his views, and that he won't be ostracized.

"We all have to take the path that our consciences dictate," Winyarz said. "I don't think my fellow Jews will be offended by that."

Caption: photo: RABBI Mordechai Winyarz


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