When the white smoke rose last week at the Vatican, signaling to the world that the College of Cardinals had chosen a new pope, Catholics weren’t the only ones waiting with bated breath.
Pope Benedict surprised the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry, becoming the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages and leaving his aides "incredulous".
For the first time, young American Jews and German Catholics will formally debate the meaning of Germany's controversial Passion Play at Oberammergau.
In "The Myth of Hitler's Pope," Rabbi David G. Dalin has written an important, frank and lucid defense of an unfairly maligned figure of recent history. Dalin's book clears up often-heard libels about the World War II papacy of Pius XII. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the role those libels play in the wider cultural context.
Czestochowa is known around the world as the site of the Jasna Góra Monastery, a pilgrimage place for Poles and other Catholics who flock there to see the famous painting of the Black Madonna.
The controversy over Mel Gibson's upcoming film about the death of Jesus has spurred painful exchanges between Jews and Christians and progressive and traditional Catholics in recent days. To date, the debates have centered on the "proper" interpretation of the role of Jews in Jesus' Crucifixion, as presented in the four Gospels.
Abraham Joshua Heschel is marching in line with Martin Luther King Jr. and a number of other key civil rights demonstrators. At the end of the demonstration, a journalist asked Heschel to describe his feelings about marching with King. He answered: "My feet were praying."
Heschel was prominent as a scholar, teacher and theologian, and widely respected because of his numerous publications. He was also well known as a result of his participation in Vatican II. Vatican II was the gathering in the early 1960s during which the Catholic Church introduced many significant internal changes. One of the changes included a historical reckoning: a formal process was begun that would eventually lead to the public announcement by the Church that "the Jews" did not kill Christ. From his participation in Vatican II, Heschel received the nickname from Catholics throughout the world of "Father Abraham."
So you've roamed the Coliseum, marveled at Florentine art and gamboled in gondolas and you're ready for a different side of Italy. Or perhaps you're about to dip a toe into Italian culture, including its little-known Jewish heritage, for the first time.
Below is an excerpt of remarks from Rabbi Marvin Hier's speech, entitled "The State of the Jews".