Ultra-traditionalist Catholics have openly challenged Pope Francis by disrupting one of his favorite events, a ceremony that he and Jewish leaders led in the Metropolitan Cathedral each year to promote religious harmony on the anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust.
The annual ceremony brings together Catholics, Jews and Protestants to mark Kristallnacht, the Nazi-led mob violence in 1938 when about 1,000 Jewish synagogues were burned and thousands of Jews were forced into concentration camps, launching the genocide that killed 6 million Jews.
A small group disrupted Tuesday night’s ceremony by shouting the rosary and the “Our Father” prayer, and spreading pamphlets saying “followers of false gods must be kept out of the sacred temple.”
Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli, named by Francis to replace him as Argentina’s top church official, appealed for calm as others in the audience rose up to repudiate them, and the protesters were soon escorted out by police.
“Let there be peace. Shalom,” Poli then said, urging everyone to take their seats for a ceremony that was also led by Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a close friend of the pope who co-wrote a book of dialogue seeking common ground between Judaism and Catholicism.
“Dear Jewish brothers, please feel at home, because that’s the way Christians want it, despite these signs of intolerance,” Poli said. “Your presence here doesn’t desecrate a temple of God. We will continue in peace this encounter that Pope Francis always promoted, valued and appreciated so much.”
The Rev. Christian Bouchacourt, the South America leader of the Society of Saint Pius X, said Wednesday that the protesters belong to his organization and that they have a right to feel outraged when rabbis preside over a ceremony in a cathedral. “I recognize the authority of the pope, but he is not infallible and in this case, does things we cannot accept,” Bouchacourt said in an interview with Radio La Red.
“This wasn’t a desire to make a rebellion, but to show our love to the Catholic Church, which was made for the Catholic faith,” Bouchacourt added. “A Mass isn’t celebrated in a synagogue, nor in a mosque. The Muslims don’t accept it. In the same way, we who are Catholics cannot accept the presence of another faith in our church.”
The Buenos Aires Herald has this account:
“A group of them attempted to spill their poison on the victims of the Holocaust,” said DAIA Jewish community group head Julio Schlosser, who was present at the meeting. “It’s very dangerous if we do not all publicly condemn acts like these, everyone, Jews, Catholics and Muslims.”
As the incident developed and the Lefebvrists, mainly youths, were insulted for their actions, Father Fernando Giannetti requested they leave in the name of Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli, calling for those in attendance not to submit to “an act of provocation.”
After some minutes of tension, police officials arrived at the Cathedral, although they did not intervene, while Giannetti prayed Saint Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for Peace.