Pope Francis's mission of Peace should not be obscured, sidetracked, or overshadowed by petty and extremist factions, which do not recognize the Pope's special and strong support of Israel, Jews, and Judaism.
Where in history has there been a Pope who:
1) wrote a book with a Rabbi?
2) celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day
3) categorically stated that "no Catholic can be an anti-Semite," and
4) spoke of a permanent alliance between Catholics and Jews, not simply as a political good-will policy, but founded in theological texts, and further, who claims that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land has a theological foundation and is not simply a Christian response to the Holocaust.
Screeching headlines about graffiti and protests coming from extremists are drowning out what will be the Pope's very personal visit to some of Judaism's most honored places, like the Western Wall and Yad Vashem. Yet for some, it is much easier to condemn and judge without full information than to understand and help the cause of peace.
Judaism teaches that we welcome guests in homes. It is hard for us to expect our being treated, anywhere, as honored guests when extremists treat the Pope, our honored guest, with vandalism to churches.
It's a good lesson in what has derailed constructive efforts in inter-religious understanding in the past. Apparently a lesson that still needs to be learned. The vocal extreme should not succeed. Not now. Not in this case.
But the Pope does not need my defense. His actions speak for themselves.
My organization, Center for Interreligious Understanding will publish a message of welcome to Pope Francis, signed by almost 450 American Rabbis and Jewish leaders, in the Israeli paper, Ha'aretz.
JOIN US: http://www.sale.haaretz.co.il/ciu/