Following the 26-year papacy of the Church’s first Polish pope, who made historic overtures to the Jewish community, the identity and background of the next pope is of particular interest to Jews. Will the 265th pope continue the pro-Jewish policies of John Paul II, reverse them, or concentrate on other theological and political areas?
In the coming days, after the funeral and official mourning period for John Paul II, the College of Cardinals will gather in the Vatican to choose his successor and serve as the public face of the Catholic Church. The new pope will be part pastor, part administrator.Any future pope will have to work within the guidelines of the Vatican II declarations, which 40 years ago absolved Jews of the responsibility for Jesus’ death and ended evangelization of the Jewish community, said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.
Here is a brief look at some of the prominent cardinals whose names have been mentioned as leading candidates to succeed John Paul II:
Francis Arinze, 72, Nigerian-born prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.A longtime Vatican bureaucrat, Cardinal Arinze has served as the Vatican’s liaison with the Islamic community. "He never grew up with a Jewish community around him" and is not intimately involved with Jewish issues, said Rabbi James Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s former interreligious director.
Cardinal Arinze joined an ecumenical delegation to the Ground Zero site in Lower Manhattan sponsored by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation following the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
"He knows enough about Jewish life," said Rabbi Schneier.
Godfried Danneels, 71, archbishop of Brussels, Belgium.
"He has a good reputation" in the Brussels Jewish community, Rabbi Rudin said of Cardinal Danneels. "He’s been active in Catholic-Jewish relations."
Rabbi Rudin noted that Cardinal Danneels helped resolve the issue of the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz.Claudio Hummes, 70, archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The son of German immigrants, Cardinal Hummes has spoken out against blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.
"We must be very careful in our catechism and our teaching not to teach in any way an interpretation of the Gospel that can stimulate anti-Semitism," he said during an interfaith gathering in New York earlier this year.
Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 62, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Known for his dynamism and work with the poor, Cardinal Maradiaga drew Jewish criticism in 2002 for suggesting that Jewish influence over the media created a focus on the Church’s pedophilia scandal in order to deflect attention from the Middle East. He subsequently apologized.
Wilfred Napier, 63, archbishop of Durban, South Africa. An activist for human rights, Cardinal Napier has little public record on Jewish issues.
Joseph Ratzinger, 77, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A German, Cardinal Ratzinger is the Vatican’s point man for defending Catholic dogma. Speaking of the Holocaust, he said "it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance by Christians to this atrocity is explained by the anti-Judaism present in the soul of more than a few Christians."
"He knows a great deal about Judaism," Rabbi Schneier said. "As a German, he is certainly fully cognizant of the burden the German people have been carrying."
Christoph Schoenborn, 60, archbishop of Vienna. Last week at Hebrew University, Cardinal Schoenborn said the Jewish presence in Israel goes back to biblical times. In 1996, speaking of terrorist attacks, he said, "Mortal hatred against Israel is also … aimed against the Church, against the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus Christ."
Cardinal Schoenborn, a trustee of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, has visited Israel and "is a very good friend," Rabbi Schneier said. "He has very strong experience with the Viennese Jewish community."
Angelo Sodano, 77, Vatican secretary of state. An intimate of John Paul II, Cardinal Sodano has the reputation as a reconciler. An escort of John Paul II on the pontiff’s international travels, he accompanied the pope to meetings with local Jewish communities.
"He is very familiar with anything and everything to do with Israel," Rabbi Schneier said.Eduardo Martinez Somalo, 78, Cardinal Chamberlain in the Vatican. The native of Spain will lead the transition period after John Paul II’s death. Cardinal Somalo has little public record on Jewish issues.
Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, archbishop of Milan. Known for his diplomatic skills, he was the ghostwriter of John Paul II’s encyclical on bioethics. "I hear some good reports" about Cardinal Tettamanzi from Jewish leaders abroad, Rabbi Schneier said. A Lubavitch Web site features photographs of Cardinal Tettamanzi sitting in a Chabad sukkah in Milan last year.