A cardinal considered a candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II delivered a strong message in favor of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land on Wednesday night, rejecting the claim that European Christians’ support for the State of Israel is based on Holocaust guilt and saying that all Christians should affirm Zionism as a biblical imperative for the Jewish people.
Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, part of a visiting Austrian delegation, made the remarks in an address at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the topic of Gods chosen land.
After asking, What does Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] mean to us, Schoenborn answered by stressing the doctrinal importance to Christians of not only recognizing Jews connection to the land, but also ensuring that Christian identification with the Jewish Bible not lead to a usurpation of Jewish uniqueness.
Only once in human history did God take a country as an inheritance and give it to His chosen people, Schoenborn said, adding that Pope John Paul II had himself declared the biblical commandment for Jews to live in Israel an everlasting covenant that remained valid today.
Christians, Schoenborn said, should rejoice in the return of Jews to the Holy Land as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
A Palestinian priest challenged the cardinal on that point, asking how he could preach to his Palestinian congregation that the establishment of the modern Jewish state was not a catastrophe, as they called it, or the result of European powers guilty conscience following World War II.
Schoenborn responded by saying that I am myself a refugee — at the end of World War II, when he was an infant, Schoenborns parents fled to Austria from Czechoslovakia — and that he felt pained at the unrecognized injustice that thousands of Czechs had suffered. However, he said, both that case and the Arab-Israeli conflict were matters of international law, whereas the chosenness of the Jewish people and their inheritance in the Holy Land were matters of faith that date back to the Bible itself.
Schoenborn also said he hoped the conflict here would be resolved in accordance with international law, and with respect to justice for the Palestinian people. We are all longing for that solution, he said. Yet I am not naive. Conflicts are part of [both sides] love of the land, and always have been… There is no simple solution.