Who Are You Israel, My Brother?

Every time that I am asked to speak about Israel - and this happens often - I feel at first overwhelmed by the greatness and complexity of the subject. And so I simply try with my listeners to look at Israel, the Israel of yesterday, of today, and that of the hope of tomorrow.

These lines make no pretense at being a theological reflection or historical research; even less do they claim to exhaust a subject which they really only barely touch. My desire, in writing this text, is to share with many friends an experience lived in the heart of Jerusalem, in meditation and welcome.

You will be called Israel

Rina GeftmanThis very name Israel calls upon us at the outset. Names have such a great importance in Semitic cultures; they reveal to us the identity, the vocation, and even the evolution of a person or a place. Among several etymologies, I will mention only two. The first is the one that the Bible itself reveals: "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed." (Gen 32:28). The second comes from Jewish tradition and identifies Israel with "Yeshar El" (straight before God), whereas the name of Jacob has exactly the opposite connotation: cunning, devious. Moreover, this new name "IsraEL" is a theophoric name, and it is the result of a long struggle during the night, a struggle with God and with men. Though victorious, Israel retains a scar in his flesh, limping because of his thigh. But he has gone through Penuel, he saw God face to face, and he now bears His Name in himself (Gen 32:30).

This new name will be the inheritance of Jacob's sons who, when they will form a people in the furnace of Sinai, will have no other name than "Bnei Israel" (the children of Israel). It is by this name that God calls upon them throughout the ages and asks them to listen: "Shema Israel!" Their destiny, throughout the centuries, singularly resembles that of their ancestor Jacob: light and darkness, exile and return, solitude and struggle, a long nocturnal battle that will only end in the brightness of the rising dawn on the day that will have no sunset.

But what is Israel in our own day? This name has crossed the centuries, it has known glory and the worst tribulations. It covers a complex reality situated on several levels; a quick and superficial glance only reveals a small part of it and necessarily generates much ambiguity. Indeed, a historian, an exegete, or an archaeologist will be able to describe Israel's ancient history, search the depths of the biblical narrative and excavate its land, but their discoveries and conclusions, as interesting as they may be, will not be able to answer our question: who is Israel? It is also possible to study the migrations and dispersions of the Jewish people on the face of the earth, and at the same time the development of its religious thought. Finally, we could show detailed statistics regarding the state of Israel and recall its brief history, already so full of confrontations - and each one of these aspects is Israel, but only partially. We must unite them together, melt them, and give them a dimension that is both earthly and metaphysical. We must discern the scarlet thread (1) that crosses them, ties them and weaves them together. This thread has not yet finished to unwind. Its beginning and its end are in the hands of God.

By following the path of this scarlet thread, one notices that we are following the unfolding of the "mystery of Israel", a term which sometimes repels our Jewish friends and is not always understood by our Christian brethren. It is a Pauline term; let us therefore allow the apostle to speak and enlighten us about its meaning: "For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). This is the eternal design of God, embracing both Gentiles and Jews, a design that is hidden from men and revealed in Christ.

All we know about the painful journey of the Jewish people, about the persecutions that it has suffered, about the prejudices that still surround it, shows us that, if this purpose is revealed in Christ, it still remains veiled for the great majority of Christians. It is only gradually that the veil is ripped, and it is not necessarily to "the wise" that the Spirit reveals it, but rather to the little ones, the humble whose hearts are open and attentive.

Perhaps we could ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our gaze so that it may be enlightened by its light as we turn towards our Jewish brother. We would then discover that the mystery of Israel is the mystery of God's faithfulness to his "first love". When Israel sins, God punishes them, but he doesn't withdraw His favor from them. Tirelessly, he tells His people through the words of Jeremiah (31:20): "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the LORD. (Jer 31:20)

Son of Man, what do you see?

There are different ways of beholding and seeing Israel. Our eye, window of the soul, will catch very different images according to the light that inhabits it.

The Archaeological Gaze

I will first speak very briefly about the gaze that we could call "archaeological". Israel belongs to the past, and no effort has been spared to know this past in all of its facets. On the other hand, one shows little interest for the Jew who is alive in our own day, for his aspirations and the manner by which he defines himself. He appears as an anachronistic notion, the survivor of an extinguished species, a kind of fossil; what is interesting is not who he is, but what he once was. It is typical that notes in the Bible often speak in the past: "The Jews celebrated the Passover, the Jews prayed..."

The Political Gaze

The political gaze is especially characteristic of a certain left wing, so-called "progressive" branch of the Church. These Christians, generous and sincere most of the time, in reaction against a policy of possession and settlements, are by principle in favor of the poor and the oppressed. If we would psychoanalyze their motivation, we would notice that it is very often the result of a bad national conscience. Hence, in France, we remember the war of Algeria and we wish to repair the past by transposing the "France-Algeria" problem to "Israel-Palestine", without realizing that we are dealing with completely different categories. One is distraught, and rightly so, about the tragic destiny of the Arab refugees, without looking for its real reasons and forgetting all the other displacements of population that gradually found a solution (2). In the name of a misunderstood charity, these Christians forget justice which invites us to "not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (Lev 19:15). Who is great and who is small? Who is rich and who is poor? Who can fix the norms in our fluctuating modern world which is tottering upon its foundations? Let us then simply try to be just, and if one has decided to take up the Palestinian cause, is it necessary to be violently and blindly against Israel? Can one not be "for" without being automatically "against" when it regards our human brothers? Are we not asked to open our hearts to a universal compassion, even at the cost of being torn between two justices that are apparently contradictory?

The political gaze that we just described is without tenderness; on the contrary, it is harsh and cutting. It never lifts itself above the ground, because it avoids at all costs to mix the political and religious realms... something that is almost impossible for an entity as complex as Israel.

For this category of Christians, the Jews of today have nothing to do with the ancient people of the Bible; they are largely made up of converts from the nations... what are they doing, then, in this land that has been inhabited - they believe - by the Arabs since time immemorial? They manage to mix together Canaanites and Arabs, Philistines and Palestinians. One only needs to study objectively the history of the Middle East to see that the facts are quite otherwise (3). Moreover, to belong to the Jewish people is not a question of race; this is an argument that recalls in a sinister way Nazism. To belong to the Jewish people is to feel that one participates in a common destiny: the Jew is the one who commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and actualizes it in each generation. He is the man of the passage from oppression to freedom, hence in the midst of the worst sufferings, the dynamism of life and of hope never leaves him.

Presented in a false context, the return of the Jews to the land of Israel appears to some people as a temporary accident and it cannot have any theological or, even less, eschatological significance. God is thus left at the door of the history which unfolds before Him.

Moreover, if we were to limit ourselves to a purely political analysis, even this would be a step in the right direction because, after all, the state of Israel was legally constituted by a decision of the United Nations - the United States, the Soviet Union and France having been the first to recognize it. We should thus apply to Israel the norms of judgments used for other young states, and that's precisely where it hurts. This state created in 1948 (which allegedly has no connection with the ancient biblical people and so no special ethical obligation), must in all of its actions demonstrate a justice, a magnanimity, and a renunciation of its own interests and its own security that was never demanded from any other state (traditionally Christian, for example). Every event that occurs in this corner of the globe provokes echoes in the entire world; everyone buts in, judges, blames and condemns. They raise an outcry because of the donkey who has grazed a bit of grass, and remain silent in the face of true acts of genocide in Cambodia, Vietnam, Uganda and, at our own doorstep in Lebanon, where the victims are Christians. By thinking about this paradox, some Christians could arrive at a more balanced vision of this problem that is so complex.

The Triumphalist Gaze

There is another way to consider Israel; for lack of a better term I will call it "triumphalist." Fortunately, this tendency to triumphalism is gradually disappearing in the Church, but it is still often present in a certain theology of "substitution." One looks at the Jewish people from above. It has failed in its vocation; it is no longer the chosen people; from now on the Church is the "new Israel", the only heir of the promises. The ancient heir has lost its election and rights. And yet Paul says that "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29), and we read in the Book of Numbers (23:19) that God is "not a son of man, that he should change his mind."

Referring to this way of thinking, a rabbi once told me: "you, Christians, you often talk about Jewish-Christian dialogue, but how can I dialogue with an interlocutor who has taken my identity and claims to be 'Israel'?"

This way of thinking could be illustrated by an epilogue that we could add to the parable of the prodigal son: the youngest son was found and forgiven, and he is now at home. In the joy of the reunion, the father excludes and throws out the elder son who had always remained with him. There is no place for him at the banquet... such an epilogue is unimaginable because it goes against nature, and how much more against the nature of God, whose tenderness is infinite and whose faithfulness is without repentance. Quite on the contrary, the Gospel story tells us that the father went out of the banquet hall and urged him to enter. Will it not be the same at the great final messianic banquet?

From the beginning, relations between Israel and the Church were marked by a quarrel of inheritance, and we know how such disputes occurring in the midst of one family can be bitter and painful. Instead of sharing with gratefulness the riches of the Father, his children tried to mutually exclude each other, each trying to monopolize everything for himself.

This triumphalist attitude is not only seen in certain theology manuals, but it is also manifest in the art of the great cathedrals - this book of the Christian people. We see the Church standing erect, proud, beautiful, her head crowned and a scepter in the hand. The synagogue, on the other hand, is blindfolded, her head bowed down and her scepter broken. Yet this figure, in her humiliation, is so beautiful and seems so close to the One was the "man of sorrows... who bore our griefs" (Isa 53:3-4).

Not only art, but even more our liturgy bears the footprints of this theology. Only recently the Latin Catholic Church has reviewed and corrected her liturgical texts. I don't think that this has been done in the Oriental churches (Catholic or Orthodox), and some of their chants and hymns continue to stigmatize the Jewish people in the vehement language of St. John Chrysostom.

An entire theology thus developed throughout the ages, feeding teaching, liturgy and art. The dispersion of Israel among the nations was presented as a consequence of the death of Jesus, which is historically inexact (4). The accursed Jews, errant and scattered forever, attest by their sad state the truth of the Christian faith. Formed by such a teaching, it is not surprising that many Christians - including some prominent ones - were openly scandalized at the ingathering of the outcasts back into the Land of the Promise, at the formation of the Jewish state and at the resurrection of Jerusalem as capital. The Jews seemed to them, once again, to go against the Christian faith; they were "perfidious" as the prayer on good Friday called them - fortunately modified now for a number of years (5).

The Hostile and Contemptuous Gaze

Sadly, this gaze has existed and it still exists. May God allow it to disappear in the future. We have given it, for a century now, an inappropriate name: anti-Semitism, although we should rather speak of "anti-Judaism." This anti-Semitism is either conscious or unconscious; admitted or denied; it is a plant with deep roots which distills a violent and subtle poison. Sometimes, we needs an exterior shock, a tragic event, or an encounter of deep friendship to discover that we carries it in ourselves; much courage and perseverance will be necessary to extract it. It took the discovery of the death camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbruck to awaken the Christian conscience and open, not without difficulties, the path to a new approach. But unfortunately, men have a short memory. The smoke of the crematoriums dissipates. We forget - or we want to forget - that is, when we don't deny outright the very reality of the exterminations. Gradually, in different parts of the world and in France among others, the old anti-Semitism is reborn under a new garment. In some cases, it can be called anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism, but very often we try to safeguard our good conscience whereas it is in fact the same poison.

Much research has been done on the causes of anti-Semitism: they can be psychological, theological, economic, sociological... We should add another reason that seems to me fundamental: this is the singularity of the Jewish people. God chose it and set it apart. The Torah, God's gift, obliges it to live separately because its food, its clothing, its prayer, its holidays, its work and its rest, the very yoke that the Lord has laid upon its shoulders distinguishes it from the other nations. This is enough to generate mistrust, hostility, and to give rise to dark and mendacious legends. In the past, rumors spread about "ritual crimes," and today, there are those about the "kidnapping of Orléans" (6).

In contrast to this call to separation, the great temptation of Israel has always been to want to be like all other nations and to assimilate itself to the people among whom it was received. These nations, moreover, have always rejected this process of assimilation after a certain time. We could say that the ghetto was surrounded by a double fence: that of Israel's fidelity to their particular vocation, and that of the rejection of the nations. It is completely insufficient that nowadays the stone walls of the ghettos have fallen. It is necessary that Jews and Christians, each faithful to their own identity, finally meet each other fraternally, in respect and in confidence. The state of Israel is, no doubt, the ideal framework for such a collaboration, because it is the only place where the Jew feels entirely free and himself. Liberated from all the complexes of the galut (exile), he can finally dialogue with the Christian on an equal level.

There once was a pagan anti-Semitism, there was (and, sadly, still is) Nazism, which is racism, but the saddest and most unnatural is without doubt the so-called "Christian" anti-Semitism. Jules Isaac called it "the teaching of contempt" which, thank God, is beginning to give way to the teaching of respect. Christian anti-Semitism has prepared the way to Nazism. Accustomed to seeing the Jews play the role of the scapegoat, the Western nations (whose culture is Christian) did not have the shock of horror and of revolt which normally should have occurred in the face of the Nazi persecution.

The cry of Leon Bloy still resounds as vehemently and stirs our consciences: "Christian anti-Semitism is the worst insult that one can do to Jesus, because it is a blow that he receives on the face of His Mother on the part of Christians."

A question dramatically crosses the history of the Church. How is it possible that Christianity - whose roots are Jewish, whose Lord wished to be a Jewish man until his very last breath, dying on the cross in order to bring an end to hatred and hence teach his disciples the greatest love - how is it possible that throughout the centuries Christianity conveyed contempt, hatred, and violence against the children of Israel? Is it possible that the Prince of darkness succeeded, for a time, to confuse the divine plan in order to delay this final reconciliation, this fullness of which speaks St. Paul, which will be like a resurrection from the dead? (Rom 11:15).

In order to come out of this valley of darkness, it is good to read and meditate upon the cry of suffering and hope of Saul the Pharisee who became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles:

I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. (Rom 9:2-5)

This same Paul, while keeping in his heart a burning love for his people, threw himself into the apostolate to the nations in order to hasten their entrance into the Church and prepare the time when "all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11:13, 5, 25).

The Respectful and Fraternal Gaze

St. Paul has just reminded us everything that Christianity owes to Judaism, all these titles to gratefulness that we have so easily forgotten. Various pontifical or episcopal documents have recently opened the way to a new approach based on respect and esteem (7). More specifically in the Pastoral Orientations of the French Episcopal Committee, the religious vocation of the Jewish people is solemnly recognized, a vocation which makes of the life and prayer of this people a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.

In a world in mutation and contestation, in desacralized world, Israel has kept the deposit of the Scriptures. It remains the faithful and vigilant witness of the living God who has spoken to men and made a covenant with them, of the God who has irrupted into human history. God has become a partner in this extraordinary adventure which began with Abraham. All nations, in Jesus, have been invited to share in this adventure and the immense caravan ascends towards this unique day when the Lord will be One and his name One. On that day, the Lord will give to all peoples pure lips so that they may glorify His Great Name. If the past has unfortunately often separated Jews and Christians, the expectation of the day of the Lord must, on the contrary, unite them.

In the gratefulness and respect that a Christian should manifest to the Jewish people there is, however, a trap. Yes, we should love and respect this elder brother in whatever defines his own identity, but we should not idealize him, because in so doing we risk ending up disappointed. Israel is not a people of saints - or at least not yet - no more than the Church, but both are called to strive towards the accomplishment of God's purpose: "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy" (Lev 19:2), and "be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). The story of Israel is not played out in heaven but rather on Earth, with beings of flesh and blood. It is Jacob's struggle, continued and multiplied perpetually. These friends of God called Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, have loved, suffered, sinned, and repented. Jewish tradition does not hide their faults, quite on the contrary, because all flesh is sinful and only One is Holy. The Sinai covenant was made with a rugged people, hardheaded and stiff-necked - human material which the hand of God, like that of the sculptor, would carve, hew, and polish. It was probably necessary that the Jewish people was constituted in this way in order to be capable to endure exiles, massacres, attempts at assimilation, and nevertheless to remain Israel.

This realistic gaze must also be turned towards the state of Israel, which is merely the politically indispensable framework of a reality that surpasses it by far. A state which, in an excessively difficult and contradictory context, must at the same time build peace and guarantee security and which, like any other state, is subject to errors.

This said, it is good to recall that the Christian must demonstrate much sensitivity in his encounter with the Jewish brother, because he often has before him a wounded and traumatized person, the bearer of a painful history, whether his own or that of his loved ones. The path to reconciliation is sometimes long and arduous, because centuries of incomprehension have dug a deep moat between them. It behooves the Christian to take the first steps and to wait patiently that his initiative be understood for what it is, a fraternal and disinterested gesture; then, the response will come and its cordiality will perhaps surpass the expectation.

Another quality is required: humility. First, because the Jew is the "root." "Do not boast... remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you (Rom 11:18). Then, because as Christians, we belong to churches or to countries in which the Jews have had to suffer much. This collective responsibility should be assumed, for in our age it carries the weight of 6 million Jewish lives. This genocide did not occur in the past, but in our own day; it did not occur at the other side of the earth but among us, among Christian populations. Only God can forgive; men can only transmit or receive this pardon, but it is necessary that there be a request for forgiveness, springing forth from repentance and generating conversion. To my knowledge, except for some isolated cases, there have not been any collective steps, neither from the Christian people, neither from its religious leaders (as, for example, towards the orthodox Christians represented by Athenagoras), and this despite the proposition made by several fathers of the Second Vatican Council.*

Would such a gesture not be necessary? Would it not bring healing to the conscience of many Christians and appeasement to the wounded memory of so many Jewish brethren? May the Holy Spirit, who always vivifies His Church, speak to the heart of greater numbers and show them "what are the desires of the Spirit."

In closing, I would like us to go together on a visit; it is essential when one comes to Israel. It will help us to understand many things regarding this country, the reactions of its inhabitants, but also the permanence of the Jewish people. I am talking about "Yad VaShem" (8), the Memorial of the Deported (at the Holocaust Museum). One enters it through a gate marked with charred and tortured steel rods - the dry bones - and one finds oneself in a large crypt built with rough stones. Everything is sober, with soft lights. On the ground, there are plates with the names of the extermination camps. A perpetual flame burns: the bodies have been destroyed, but the Jewish soul has survived.

Not far from the crypt is the museum, almost entirely composed of photographic documents made by the Germans themselves. The whole history of Nazism passes before our eyes: Hitle's ascent to power, the beginnings of persecution, the establishment of the "final solution," science at the service of the massive destruction of man (especially of the Jewish man), heaps of corpses... it is a descent to hell. It would be unbearable if, when going out, the visitor would not find himself transported upon a large esplanade, caressed by the fresh wind under a brilliant sun. All around, the foliage trembles, flowers exhale their perfume, men walk, children play. LIFE, although we were just plunged into death. Almost by itself, one feels the prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel, which one is accustomed to read in this place, rise to the heart and then to the lips: "the bones were very many." The prophets could certainly not imagine that they would be so many... and that most of the time they would not even be bones, but heaps of ashes and columns of smoke. Then, at the Lord's command, Ezekiel summons the Spirit to come from the four winds and blow upon the dead so that they may relive. The bones come together, and the bodies stand on their feet. Then, in a second phase, the breath enters them and they live. With this vision, God consoles his crushed and decimated people, whose hope has gone: "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and done it," says the LORD'" (Ezek 37:13-14).

This page from Ezekiel is so dense. We need to let every word sink down into our heart so that it may bear fruit in silence and in prayer. This prophecy concerns Israel in the first place, but it is also addressed to all: to the whole creation that groans with birth pangs, and those who, having received the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan in longing for the redemption of their body and for beholding face to face (Rom 8:22-23).

I would like to conclude with what constitutes our hope. Jews and Christians walk along different but convergent paths. Where, how, and when will be the encounter, this is the secret of God alone. We only know that the Master of the universe leads all times to their accomplishment (pleroma) (Eph 1:10) and that without Israel - the elder son - the divine plan cannot attain its plenitude (Rom 11:15).

We must therefore pray that both the Church and Israel may hear what the Spirit is telling them, and that they may respond to His desires.

Children of the Church, it behooves us to guard with a jealous care her purity and holiness while working tirelessly at our own conversion, because this conversion, in the end, will determine that of the communities to which we belong.

When the Church will have profoundly regained consciousness of her biblical (Jewish) sources, when her language will be as transparent as that of the Gospel, when she will have repaired the tears in her garments, then she will reflect the image of the Son, who is Himself the image of the Father. She will then be His epiphany among men and it will be the work of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). He is already at work in the Church, He is blowing upon the house of Israel. May He renew the face of the earth and prepare a new Pentecost.

Rina Geftman (1981)

Rina Geftman (1914-2001) was a luminous presence in the Jerusalem Hebrew-speaking Catholic community from the time of her arrival in Jerusalem in 1966 until her death in 2001. Click here for a short biography of her life.


Notes

1. Scarlet thread (hut haShani): the scarlet rope that Rahab attached to her window during the conquest of Jericho (Josh 2:18) symbolizes in Hebrew the golden thread in a story.

2. The problem of the Palestinian refugees is certainly dramatic, but a solution could have been found with the collaboration of the great powers, of the Arab countries, of Israel, and of the refugees themselves, but we have voluntarily let the problem "rot." Millions of other refugees, at the time, were integrated into countries that received them. Israel absorbed 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Let's hope that finally a solution will be found.

3. From the year 70 to 1948, the Land of Israel has known many foreign occupations and fluctuations of population. The Jewish settlements never ceased in the country after the Roman conquest. According to the rulers of the moment, it grew or diminished, and in this way was prepared the massive immigration of the last 100 years. After the Romans and Byzantines, the Arabs (in 634) conquered the country; the process of arabization and islamization took many long centuries. Under the Ottoman Empire, especially in its final phase in the 19th century, the country experienced a great decline, and the population was estimated to 250,000 people only. Jews were a minority untill 1948, except in Jerusalem which, for more than two centuries, counted more Jews than Muslims or Christians.

4. The dispersion of the Jews began long before the time of Jesus. In 586 BC, it was the fall of the kingdom of Judah and the exile to Babylon. Only a small portion of the exilees returned to Zion to join those who were able to stay. At the time of Jesus, there were 1 to 2 million inhabitants in the country, and no doubt many more in the Mediterranean countries.

5. Perfidious: in the ancient rite, on Good Friday we prayed for the "perfidis Judaeis." We did try to translate into French "unfaithful", but the prayer was said in Latin and this marked the spirits. It was only in 1955 that John XXIII suppressed this hurtful formulation.

6. Ritual crime: in the Middle Ages and beyond, Jews were accused to immolate a Christian child and to mix its blood to the unleavened bread. In our own days, rumors without any foundation have circulated in Orleans about a women's fashion store, belonging to Jews, whose customers disappeared in an underground hatch.

7. Catholic documents: more specifically: 
Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate (1965)
Pastoral Orientations on the Attitude of Christians towards Judaism, from the French Episcopal Committee (1973)
Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration "Nostra Aetate" (1974)

8. Yad va-Shem: See Isa 56:5: God promises to give a monument (yad) and a name (vaShem), even to those without offspring, to perpetuate their memory.

* Editor's note: Since this article was written (in 1981), there have in fact been several concrete steps and expressions of repentance on the part of the Church and its leaders, most notably at the initiative of Pope John Paul II.  However, the fact that these concrete steps of humble repentance on the part of a few courageous leaders have not been widely internalized and adopted by the Church at large indicates that the words written here remain as relevant as they were at the time when they were written.