The Pope Francis Effect and Catholic-Jewish Relations The_Pope_Francis_Effect - Page 14

war-time pope’s record has been misunderstood. 25 However this historical debate plays out, it will be a challenge for Catholic-Jewish relations. But the promise of Francis’ pontificate remains most alluring. There has long been concern that the advances in Catholic-Jewish relations taken for granted in Europe and even more so in the United States may be harder to achieve elsewhere, especially where there are few Jews. A pope whose background is so different from his predecessors and speaks Spanish as his mother tongue might have the ability to reach more broadly with the message of Nostra Aetate and expand this golden age of Catholic-Jewish relations. When an AJC delegation met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in February 2014, we presented him with a copy of the Jewish Museum exhibit book inside an artistic and inscribed gift box. We showed him page 105 of the exquisite volume, where a print of White Crucifixion is included. Francis was moved by our recognition of his emotional connection to the painting and responded with a joyous smile. With Pope Francis, Catholic-Jewish relations have entered a new stage, normalization. It is all very natural, without premeditation. It is therefore most appropriate that the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate will be commemorated and celebrated during Francis’ pontificate, emblematic of the maturity of this cherished interreligious relationship between sibling faiths. ■ 25. “Pope Francis defends Pius XII’s wartime record,” JTA: News Brief, (June 13, 2014), http://www.jta.org/2014/06/13/news-opinion/world/pope- francis-defends-pius-xiis-wartime-record, accessed March 5, 2015. 12