Insulting a member of the Holy Trinity once again.
On Monday, May 20, 2019, Pope Francis relieved Bishop Vitus Huonder of his duties as Bishop of the Diocese of Chur (Switzerland), while appointing an administrator with a view to the election of his successor.
According to an intention that he stated long ago, Bishop Huonder is retiring to a house of the Society of Saint Pius X. The one sole purpose of this step is to dedicate himself to prayer and silence, to celebrate the traditional Mass exclusively, and to work for Tradition, the only way of renewing the Church.
The Society of Saint Pius X appreciates Bishop Huonder’s courageous decision and rejoices to be able to provide him with the spiritual and priestly surroundings that he desires so deeply. May this example be followed by others, so as to “restore everything in Christ”.
May 20, 2019
His Excellency Vitus Huonder - Bishop Emeritus of Chur
Don Davide Pagliarani - Superior General of the SSPX
Joint communiqué of Bishop Huonder and Father Pagliarani, FSSPXNews, 20 May 2019
Recently I attended an audience with Pope Francis with the International Council of Christians and Jews. It was my second audience, as I had also gained access to the Vatican’s elaborate reception room through the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam.
The journey into the heart of the Vatican evoked the Christian theological principle of advent, as we advanced through the Borgia courtyard and drew higher up the staircases into the lavishly painted coatroom and excitement mounted buzzingly amidst the group. I followed the sea of bobbing yarmulkes through the ornate hallways. In the reception room they asked us not to take pictures, but of course when Pope Francis entered everyone stood and went bananas with their cell phone cameras, iPads, camcorders, etc.
One of the conference leaders read a statement to Pope Francis thanking him for his time, and three gifts were presented, one jointly to Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a member of the ICCJ with whom he wrote On Heaven and Earth, a book on Jewish-Christian dialogue, back when he was still Bergoglio, Archbishop of Argentina.
After the presentation of gifts, Pope Francis rose from his simple chair—not the ornate throne that his predecessors have used—and faced the audience in front of a microphone. He welcomed the group to Rome, speaking in Italian: “Here in Rome, we also find the most ancient Jewish community in Western Europe, whose origins can be traced to the time of the Maccabees. Christians and Jews therefore have lived together in Rome for almost two thousand years, even though their relations in the course of history have not been without difficulty.” He invoked the conference theme, “50 Years since Nostra Aetate,” the Vatican II declaration of respect for non-Catholic religions, which helped Christians and Jews begin to heal the “fragmented humanity, mistrust and pride” that divided them for 2,000 years. The Pope spoke of how Christians and Jews have their differences —“The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah”— but together they “confess one God…And he, in his infinite goodness and wisdom, always blesses our commitment to dialogue.”
Then the Vatican guards announced that Pope Francis would take time to greet everybody in the room personally. There were about 250 people. A few months ago, when I attended the audience with the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam, the pope only greeted the speakers and the bigwigs, so I was surprised and thrilled. For an hour, Pope Francis took the time to greet every single person in the room, which, in this heat, under those vestments, was very generous. In my opinion, this choice reflects a deeper friendship and investment in the relationship between Catholics and Jews, which is consistent with the Church since the Second Vatican Council. At the Council, special commissions were established to develop and support this relationship, as it was recognized that Christians and Jews share a common ancestry and have been notably in conflict throughout Western history.
From the sidelines, I watched Pope Francis continue to greet people tirelessly, animated and attentive with every last person. When Rabbi Skorka approached Papa Francesco, they embraced passionately—they are old friends, joking and smiling, each joyful in the reunion. They also happen to be religious leaders of different religions—so their friendship is symbolic as well as genuine.
The guards formed lines, row by row, and I drew closer to Pope Francis. I would receive, at most, about a minute with him, so I got ready to ask if he would take a selfie with me. I rehearsed my line: Lei può fare un selfie con me? When the line emptied and I was suddenly face-to-face with Pope Francis, staring into his gentle face, I had a Beatlemania blackout moment. I joyfully cried out CIAO!! to him, instead of the more formal Italian salve. He chuckled at me and reached for my hand.
I asked Pope Francis if we could take a selfie together and he respectfully looked at his official photographer for permission. Luckily the photographer was totally into it. I believe they took pictures of us taking a selfie and other people took photos of them taking photos of us taking selfies. Somewhere in the cosmos there is an infinite regression of my selfie with Pope Francis.
My impressions: He is very sweet, soft spoken, grandfatherly, seems tired, has lost weight since I saw him in February, is shorter than I expected, and has the softest hand I’ve ever shaken.
Amidst the looming Swiss Guards, the encounter was a blur. Still, afterward I glowed for hours. It was thrilling to follow the selfie as it exploded on Facebook, almost 300 people liking it and sharing it within hours.
The next day I had a strange feeling. Was it post-popum depression? I had guilt pangs about asking Pope Francis for a selfie, like I had objectified him or used him. I worried I contributed to his depletion, that I just took and didn’t give anything. Not that saying one sentence would have been more substantive. But for some reason I felt that I profaned him! My Christian friend Kristen Leigh Southworth straightened me out. She texted me breathlessly, No way, Pope F is un-profane-able!!! He is a down-to-Earth pope—that’s like his whole thing….He is a true vicar of Christ. Jesus would totally have let you do a selfie.
In a moment of Jewish-Christian dialogue that I cherish, my brilliant friend Kristen got to the theological heart of my ambivalence about taking a selfie with the vicar of Christ:
“It’s hard to have a genuine experience of anything, but especially something particularly special or ‘sacred’ or once-in-a-lifetime. Real holiness always breaks through the mundane. And when you want or expect to have a big holy moment, it always turns out to have a little mundane mixed in there. And that can be disappointing. Like…really, that’s it? This was supposed to be major and life changing and holy! So you can start to think, maybe I did something wrong? I should have done it differently… Been more present to the moment… Something…. But what? I probably would have thought up some intelligently effusive thing to say to him in my head, and when I got up there I would have chickened out and it would have come out all garbled and inaudible and I only would have mumbled something like, “I like Jesus and I like you too.” And he would smile kindly and shake my hand and I would have walked away in some sort of daze, wishing I had kept my mouth shut and taken a selfie with him.
There is nothing wrong with being a fan. That’s why he’s there. That’s literally the reason for the pope to exist. To be an emblem. A face. The vicar of Christ. Someone for people to see. He really gets that. That’s why he goes out to the people, the way Jesus did. The point is for him to both be on the pedestal, and to flip it.”
My selfie with Pope Francis has been clicked and liked round the world. My parents sent it to all their friends. I’ve been in touch with people I haven’t talked to for years, all of whom are radiating with excitement about suddenly being one degree of separation from this fine public figure. This selfie drew forth from my dear Kristen a hot surge of wisdom and insight.
I think it has paid for itself.
Pope Francis was dedicated and generous enough to personally greet all 250 people in his reception room that summer afternoon, though he looked depleted about halfway through our group. When I went to www.photo.va to download official photos of taking a selfie with him, I noted that ours was only one of three audiences the same day. On the photographer’s back calendar, there were multiple official events, audiences, addresses, visits, trips, and interviews scheduled every single day for years. It makes sense that he looks tired. I imagine this valiant, beautiful, earnest 79.5-year-old is pushing himself beyond depletion to fulfill the holy burdens of his sacred office.
Knowing this, seeing Pope Francis up close, sharing a spontaneous moment of humor and co-creation together, and watching his effort to be fully present for all who approached him, makes especially poignant the final words of his address to the International Council of Christians and Jews: “May the Lord bless you and keep you in his peace. I ask you please to pray for me. Thank you.”
On Taking a Selfie with Pope Francis, State of Formation, (13 July 2015).
Pope scrambles to get his media team back on message, La Croix International, (4 January 2019).
“thanked [Francis] for his courage in announcing last year that the Catholic Church would no longer be targeting Jews for conversation and acknowledged that Jews and people of other faiths can go to heaven.
He implored the Pope to take a further courageous step and protect not just the Jewish soul but the Jewish body.
“Your holiness,” he said, “the Jewish people are under threat around the world, with rising anti-Semitism especially here in Europe, and constant murderous attacks in Israel. As the foremost moral voice and spiritual personality in the world, your condemnation of anti-Semitism in unconditional terms and acknowledgement that there is no difference in hating Israel and hating the Jewish people, is vital. Israel is hated simply because it’s the Jewish state.”
Stating that clearly and unequivocally, Rabbi Shmuley continued, would provide a moral bulwark against the enemies of the Jewish people, especially as forces like BDS attempt to destroy Israel economically and demonize the Jewish nation.
“Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah all profess genocidal intent against Jews and Israel,” Rabbi Shmuley said. He asked the Pope to condemn the incitement in the strongest terms.
The Pope responded to Rabbi Shmuley by asking him to pray for him. Rabbi Shmuley responded that the he and the Jewish people were always praying for the welfare of the Pope, wishing him God’s blessings in achieving this vital and noble aim.
“The Pope is a man of immense warmth and caring and he listened intently to my heartfelt plea to protect my people in an age where irrational hatred of Jews is growing. I will do as he asked and pray that this hatred subsides, with the Pope joining the chorus of those who condemn in absolute terms the vilification of Israel and Jewry.””
“The first was to highlight the Jewishness of Jesus. The second, to educate about the Jewish origins of the Christian faith and how the only religion ever practiced by Jesus was Judaism. And the third was to create a theological bridge of understanding between Jews and Christians in an era where Christians have emerged as some of Israel’s greatest supporters and defenders.”
“"This book is telling the Jews to reclaim Jesus, the authentic Jesus, the historical Jesus, the Jewish Jesus" and to be inspired by his "beautiful" teachings, the U.S.-born author and TV show host told Anglo File this week in Jerusalem. "It's asking Christians to make an effort to enrich their Christianity through an understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus."
"Suddenly we have evangelical Christians emerging as the foremost supporters of the state of Israel," he said. "We have this political alliance. What is a lacking is a theological bridge."
"Christians don't know the Jewish Jesus," Boteach continued. "They know the Christ-divinity but not the Jewish man Jesus. There's a need to discover the humanity of Jesus."
"Kosher Jesus" amalgamates research (mostly by Hyam Maccoby ) which suggests that the gospels give the wrong impression of Jesus. "There was a lot of embellishment and editing," Boteach said. "We have to remember Paul [the apostle] never met Jesus. He cannot offer us a first-hand account of Jesus' life."
Christian scripture "doesn't add up" when it portray Jesus as a self-hating Jew, or when it lists sins that allegedly led Jews to condemn him, Boteach said. Jesus never declared himself God or meant to abolish Jewish law, he asserts.
And the fact that Jesus thought of himself as the messiah shouldn't bother Jews, he insists: "I could declare myself the messiah right now. There's nothing blasphemous about this," Boteach said. "I even encourage people to have a certain messianic tendency in their lives, a desire to redeem the world."
Boteach said he regrets that Jews allowed Jesus "to be ripped away from them without even a fight."
"We just accepted a Christian interpretation of his life and narrative," he said. "One of the most influential people of all time is seen as a Christian who loved the Romans and said about the Jews that they are all the children of the devil."But "Christian ideas of Jesus as divine messiah emerged as a savvy adaptation following the destruction of the Second Temple," Boteach explained. Once Jews understand that, he writes that they "can take inspiration from Jesus' often beautiful ethical teachings and appreciate Jesus as a devoted Jewish son who became martyred while trying to lift the Roman yoke of oppression from his beloved people."
Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, and Marc Zvi Brettler, Professor in Judaic Studies at Duke University, the editors of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, presented the book to Pope Francis at the General Audience on Wednesday, March 27th. The following day, the work was discussed at a conference held at the Aula Magna of the Gregorian University, with responses by Professor Pino Di Luccio, S.J. and Biju Sebastian, S.J. The event was organized by Professor Jean-Pierre Sonnet, S.J., and Professor Luca Mazzinghi and co-sponsored by the Gregorian’s Faculty of Theology and the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament involves contributions of seventy Jewish scholars. It is the first major attempt of Jewish scholars to make the New Testament accessible to a Jewish readership, especially as an important source for the history of Judaism in the first century. At the same time, this work opens a Jewish perspective on the New Testament to Christian readers. It helps Christians to become aware of passages that are problematic for Jews. It also helps one to appreciate the implications of the Jewish identity of Jesus and the first believers in Christ. This work opens the door to respectful and enriching dialogue and is thus a major contribution to Jewish-Christian relations.
Amy-Jill Levine is currently Visiting Professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute(PBI), where she teaches a course on the Parables of Jesus. She is the first Jewish scholar to teach in the field of New Testament at the Institute. She will also deliver a paper at the conference Jesus and the Pharisees, 7-9 May 2019, organised by Professor Joseph Sievers (PBI). Marc Brettler presented a lecture on “Religious and Critical Perspectives in Jewish Biblical Studies” at the PBI, hosted by Professor Agustinus Gianto, S.J., of the Institute’s Oriental Faculty.
01 APR CELEBRATING THE JEWISH ANNOTATED NEW TESTAMENT AT THE GREGORIAN UNIVERSITY, Gregorian Foundation, 1 April 2019.
Embrace Francis, to reencounter Bergoglio
He greeted me with an affectionate: “Sergio, I am so glad you are here! Did you sneak in?” And in reality, he was right once more.It was the first audience of Pope Francis with the leaders of the different religions. There I reencountered the dear Bergoglio. In the impressive setting of the Sala Clementina, the embrace transcended the formality of the protocol greeting so that I could see in his smile and warm gesture the one, who named Pope, was our old Bergolgio. In that way, with the gestures that are so typically his, is warm, direct, intimate. With the good mood of one who does not lose the smile or the spontaneity even from those heights, recuperating in everyone the same open mindedness, to end by asking us all to pray for him. I presented myself only to bless and be grateful for that moment. The embrace crowns the path of he who is my reference, but also the renewed commitment for the challenge that summons us. “Now that I am before Francis, I again embrace my rabbi Bergoglio”, I told him. He gave me a smile and, with his particular sense of humor, received me with a warm: “Sergio, I am so glad you are here! Did you sneak in?”And in reality, he was right once more.Without getting into the details, I had not been included in the formal delegation of representatives of Jewish institutions to the Vatican and, faced with the inviolable rigorousness of the Vatican protocol, even with the collaboration of the Argentinean and international leaders of the Jewish community who were present, it was impossible to include my name for the audience, until, as was foreseeable, it was my priest and bishop friends like Monsignor Sanchez Sorondo, who made it known, so that it was Pope Francis himself who instructed the Secretary of State to allow me access, and celebrate in that minimum instant that became eternal so that we could meet and see each other again.After the embrace, we prayed.Our millenary Jewish tradition prescribes that we recite a blessing when one is in the presence of a wise man and great master of humanity. So with happiness in my heart and my soul exalted with gratitude, I recited a blessing in Hebrew so that we could end by together saying: Amen.So much emotion! So much energy! A unique moment that will forever remain in my heart and soul, a fertile furrow in space-time that will bear its fruit in the good harvest of the future.Pope Francis left us a message full of kindness and love, uniting the Christian churches, even the oriental orthodox ones, which for a millennium had not been present in these moments. Giving unequivocal signs of unity for the ecumenical task in Christianity, he referred to the inter-religious dimension providing a special place for the Jewish-Christian bond.I am still touched while I write these last lines. The embrace with Francis renews a pact for this new era, the blessing elevated in prayer of a new time where we remain guided by the generous heart of our pastor and master, Pope Francis who is none other than Father Jorge, the loved and valued Bergolgio.
Abrazar a Francisco, para reencontrarme con Bergoglio, La Nacion, (25 March 2013), English translation is from World Union for Progressive Judaism Latin America News.
On the airplane flight from North Macedonia to Rome...
Peter Nanev, BTV: Good evening. Peter Nanev, BTV Bulgaria. [In English] It is more of a personal question, as Your Holiness, you’re like a human being, from where do you find strength in your body, in your spirit in cases when you have to give even more strength for a heavily sick child?Francis: First of all I would like to tell you that I do not go to the witch... [laughs]. I do not know. I do not know, really. It is a gift from the Lord. When I am in a country, I forget everything, but not because I want to forget it, I forget it, and I am only there. And then this gives me perseverance, I don't know, but [when] I am on the trip I am not tired! Then I am tired! After! But where do I take the strength from? I believe that the Lord gives it to me, there is no explanation. I ask the Lord to be faithful, to serve him in this work of travels, that the trip will not be tourism. I ask. All is his grace. Nothing else comes to me to say. But then I do not do so much work, huh? Thank you.
Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press conference from North Macedonia, Catholic News Agency, 7 May 2019.
On the papal airplane from Rome to Chile...
“Loud laughter accompanied the joke Francis made in response to the query asked by Cristiana Caricato, a journalist of TV2000, who, (upon) greeting him, had asked him: “We want to know what the doctor gives you so that we can take it too, we who struggle just as you do” — a reference to Bergoglio’s stamina during these trips. “But I do not go to the doctor, I go to the witch!”, he said, laughing with gusto.”
Che medicine prendo? Vado dalla strega!, La Stampa, Vatican Insider, 15 January 2018, (English translation CMJ).