Pope writes to Jewish leader about the Holocaust
Both leaders agree on God's presence even at times of genocide
Picture: Washington Post/AP
- Elizabeth Tenety for Washington Post On Faith
- October 23, 2013
Pope Francis reached out to an American Jewish leader, the son of two Holocaust survivors, in a recent e-mail exchange.
The pope contacted Menachem Rosensaft, an American professor specializing in the law of genocide and war crimes trials at Columbia and Cornell, after Rosensaft sent a sermon he delivered in September on believing in God after the Holocaust, along with a personal note, to the Vatican.
Vatican officials confirmed the e-mail.
In the short note, Francis alluded to Rosensaft’s reflection on the possibility of God’s presence during the Holocaust, which the professor believes gave his father strength to pray even during his imprisonment and torture, and his mother the courage to rescue and tend to 149 children, largely orphans, inside a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
Francis wrote to Rosensaft, translated by The Post from Spanish:
“When you, with humility, are telling us where God was in that moment, I felt within me that you had transcended all possible explanations and that, after a long pilgrimage — sometimes sad, tedious or dull – you came to discover a certain logic and it is from there that you were speaking to us; the logic of First Kings 19:12, the logic of that “gentle breeze” (I know that it is a very poor translation of the rich Hebrew expression) that constitutes the only possible hermeneutic interpretation.
“Thank you from my heart. And, please, do not forget to pray for me. May the Lord bless you.”
In Jewish circles, the response to the theological questions raised by the Holocaust has ranged from a rejection of God’s existence to a teaching in some ultra-Orthodox circles that sees the Holocaust as divine punishment. But for others, like Rosensaft, the Holocaust gave rise to a new way of thinking about God’s faithfulness amidst profound suffering. Rosensaft said that the pope’s acknowledgement that God was present even during the time of genocide through acts of courage and kindness “is a tremendous spiritual gift” that gives meaning to survivors of any act of violence.
Source: Washington Post On Faith