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The Pope is dying: It's time to come clean

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted October 27, 2003

What can a man do in his last dying days, that he would never have been able to do in his lifetime? What can a man do, when he's about to face his maker? He can do the right thing in spite of the social pressure and outrage within his institution, that his act will entail. He can correct an enormous, centuries old historical injustice. That's what.

Pope John Paul II looks on during a special audience for newly elevated Cardinals, their family members and other faithful, at the Vatican on October 23
Pope John Paul II looks on during a special audience for newly elevated Cardinals, their family members and other faithful, at the Vatican on October 23

The man, Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II, it is said, had good relations with Jews back in his native Poland, in the "old days". And although I might not be the most favorable to interreligious dialogue -- I believe religions exist because of their differences and blurring those differences is an untruth -- this Pope has done much to further good Catholic-Jewish relations. That's why I'm calling on him to open up the Vatican vaults and return all the stolen Jewish property that the Catholic Church has confiscated over the centuries.

Vast libraries of rare stolen Jewish books -- and often unique manuscripts -- exist in the Vatican. How do I know? Because, occasionally scholars -- Jewish or otherwise -- are allowed access to them, to do research. The Vatican is so morally corrupt, that it's not embarrassed to admit that they have the stolen goods, and even relishes the opportunity to show them off -- to the right scholars -- at times. Mind you not all scholars have access to the Vatican's archives, but access isn't the issue in any case. Justice and restoration of property rights is the issue. At a time when Eastern European governments in the post-communist era are grappling with the return of Jewish art and other property to its rightful owners -- property that was stolen from Jews during the Nazi and Communist eras -- how can the Vatican sit in self-righteous thievery and turn a deaf-ear to the demand to return to the Jewish people it's rightful inheritance?

The last thousand years of Church history is strewn with blood libels, riots, pogroms, expulsions, and the most evil murderous attacks against Jewish communities, many of which were carried out under the behest of local parish priests. Inquisitions, forced conversions, outright murder, these are the memories that the Jewish people carry with them of Christian "love". Why compound these sins, by stealing the Jews' heritage as well?

Though there were numerous book -- Jewish holy book -- burning parties sponsored by the Catholic Church in 12-15th century Europe, of which the Talmud was a favorite; often the ransacked Jewish libraries were carted off, and many made their way to the Vatican. Though the Church didn't want Jews to have their "divine knowledge", somehow they sensed something special in those books and couldn't bring themselves to destroy them all. The same holds true for other Jewish ritual objects, such as Menorahs, Torah scrolls, etc. It has even been rumored, that the Church inherited vessels stolen from the destroyed Jerusalem Temple, which occurred during the Roman Empire era conquest of Judea.

Israel has an appropriate address for restitution in its National Library at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It's about time the Catholic Church repent, admit its sins, open up its vaults to inspection, return the stolen property, ask forgiveness, and promise never to do such a horrendous thing again. This type of cultural pillage can never be tolerated, not against Jews and not against others. Nothing less should be expected from a so-called "religious" institution.

Now is the time, when "Mr. Infallible" can take the plunge to right a wrong that's been perpetrated on the Jewish people for too long.

Karol Wojtyla, your days are numbered, everyone including you know it. While celebrating the 25th anniversary of your pontificate, do the right thing and order the return of the stolen loot to its rightful inheritors. Show everyone what you're made of. It might be harder than turning Mother Teresa into a saint, but it will get you much more credit from above!

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko (c) 2003/5764 Pasko

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