The Pope Francis Effect and Catholic-Jewish Relations The_Pope_Francis_Effect - Page 2

The Pope Francis Effect and Catholic-Jewish Relations CCJR 13TH ANNUAL MEETING PROCEEDING NOAM E. MARANS 1 In evaluating the trajectory of Catholic-Jewish Relations in the Pope Francis era, one picture is worth a thousand words. Pope Francis has identified Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion as one of his favorite paintings. 2 In the aftermath of Kristallnacht in 1938, when hundreds of European synagogues were torched, foreshadowing greater evil yet to come, Chagall artistically interpreted the threat of Nazism within the continuum of anti-Semitism. A “Jewish Jesus” is on the cross, wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) loincloth and surrounded by scenes of persecuted and fleeing Jews. A synagogue and its Torah scrolls are engulfed in flames, torched by a Nazi brownshirt. Using conflicting imagery, Chagall delivers his warning: the Jews who were persecuted as Christ-killers are now crucified as Jesus the Jew once was. Pope Francis did not hesitate to publicly herald a painting featuring a syncretistic “Jewish Jesus” that COVER POPE FRANCIS AT THE WESTERN WALL MAY 25, 2014 1. Rabbi Noam E. Marans is AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. A version of this paper was delivered on October 26, 2014 at the CCJR (Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations) 13th Annual Meeting in Mobile, Alabama. It was subsequently published in Studies in Christian- Jewish Relations, Vol 10, No 1 (2015). The research assistance of AJC colleague Dahlia Herzog in preparing this article is acknowledged with gratitude. 2. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., “A Big Heart Open to God: The Exclusive Interview with Pope Francis,” America, Sept. 30, 2013 issue, pope-interview, accessed March 4, 2015. White Crucifixion can be viewed at, accessed March 4, 2015. 1