According to Catholic News Services, the Pope sent a telegram to Chief Rabbi Riccardo di Segni of Rome to mark the Jewish high holy days. In it he sent his greetings to members of Rome’s Jewish community.
Pope Benedict offered his “heartfelt best wishes” for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, in the telegram released to reporters by the Vatican this past Sept. 20.
He wrote, “I hope that Jews and Christians, growing in respect and mutual friendship, may bear witness to the world of the values that spring from the adoration of the one G-d.”
While the call for a unified message of values is certainly an extension of friendship, the problem is that the term “adoration” is a term uniquely Catholic and does not simply mean “the love of the one G-d.”
Adoration is a sign of devotion to and worship of Jesus, who is believed by Catholics to be present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the appearance of the consecrated host, in the form of hosts or bread. As a devotion, Eucharistic adoration and meditation are more than merely looking at the Blessed Host, but are believed to be a continuation of what was celebrated in the Eucharist. From a theological perspective, the adoration is a form of latria.
What is Latria? Latrīa is a Latin term (from the Greek λατρεία, latreia) used in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology to mean adoration, a reverence directed only to the Holy Trinity. In other words, the Pope seems to have made a decision to call for Jews and Catholics to get together and give a unified message to the world with language that invokes a theological point that Jews do not and cannot accept – namely a tripartite deity. Jews believe in One G-d – uniquely, completely, and thoroughly and the very term “adoration” is a term that underscores a theology that negates that. Other terms could have been used in this message that neither offend Catholic nor Jewish sensibilities – such as a love or a belief in the One G-d.
Are we being hyper-sensitive? Perhaps, but we must keep in mind that the Pope does have a strong background in Catholic theology – more so than that of his predecessors. It is thus difficult to conceive of this as a slip of the tongue or as a term used imprecisely.
And while it is true that Catholic Jewish relations have certainly come a long way since Vatican Council II, the many centuries of attempts to get the Jewish people to adopt Catholic theological notions are not a good track record.
Messages of friendship are always welcome. However, in the future, more care should be taken to have those messages based upon a foundation of common ground.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org