John L Allen Jr; 22/1/10
If it’s true that only a soldier can fully grasp the horrors of war, perhaps it likewise takes a theologian to appreciate the limits of theology. That may help explain a striking paradox about the papacy of Benedict XVI: He’s a true theologian-pope, yet a core element of his legacy will be to sideline theology as the focus of Catholicism’s engagement with other religions. Another chapter was added to that legacy this week with the pontiff’s Jan. 17 visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, the first time a pope made the trip since John Paul II’s groundbreaking visit in 1986. Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, at the main synagogue in Rome Jan. 17. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters). Understandably, media attention was concentrated on debates over Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust is among the most polarizing issues in Catholic-Jewish relations. In late December, the Vatican announced that Benedict XVI had signed a decree of heroic virtue for Pius, moving him a step closer to sainthood. On that score, the visit seemed to mark the birth of a new star in the Jewish world: Riccardo Pacifici, President of the Jewish Community in Rome, who had the rare opportunity to challenge the pope in public.