Scrapbookpages Blog

March 9, 2010

The Catholic Church – it’s not what it used to be

On Sunday, I attended Mass at a Catholic Church, the first time in many years.  A family member is dating a girl who says she is “half Catholic.”  I know that the Nazis categorized some people has “half Jews,” but “half Catholic?”  Has the Catholic church changed so much that there are now “half Catholics”?

Anyway, I was happy to see that the largest and oldest Catholic Church in my city still has the original high altar.  In the old days, the priest would say Mass in Latin with his back to the people in the church.  Now the the priest says the mass in English in American churches, and he faces the audience.  Many churches have removed the high altar, since it is no longer used.

For example, the photo below shows a church in the town of Geseke in Germany, which has an empty space where the altar used to be.

Empty space where altar used to be in a Catholic Church

Two years ago, when I visited the church shown above, I was totally shocked to see that, not only had the altar been completely removed, but there were Jewish symbols displayed at a side altar.

Side altar in Catholic church has a menorah and a Star of David

There was never a large Jewish population in Geseke and as far as I know, there were no Jews from the town who died in the Holocaust.  That is what is so shocking about this display. While I was standing in front of this side altar, with my mouth hanging open in disbelief, a woman in the church came up to me and directed my attention to a  hanging sculpture, which is the only thing of beauty left in this church. The statue has two sides; in the photo, the choir loft is shown in the background.

Hanging statue inside St. Peter's Church in Geseke, Germany

St. Peter's Catholic Church in Geseke, Germany

I did a little research to find out if there are churches in America that display a menorah. I learned that there is a menorah in a Catholic Church in Boston; here is a quote from this blog:

In memory of Holocaust victims, Cardinal William Kasper, a top Vatican liaison to the Jewish people, rededicated a menorah at the Boston Archdiocese. He’s calling the menorah a reminder of “a common duty and a common responsibility” to promote peace among religions. The ceremony was held before about 200 people, including rabbis, priests, and Holocaust survivors.

The menorah was originally dedicated in 2002, but moved to a new home after the archdiocese sold its land to pay off debts. The recent dedication was on Wednesday in honor of Yom HaShoah.

I also found this quote on this web site:

More than 500 Jews and Catholics sat together in the pews of the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe in Dallas to share in the unveiling and lighting of a menorah donated by the Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU) in Secaucus, N.J.

The menorah, created by Israeli sculptor Aharon Bezalel, is one of 11 being placed in Catholic centers around the United States. The four-foot 380-pound menorah, which depicts men, women and children being led by a tallis-laden rabbi, is a replica of the Yom Hashoah Menorah presented to Pope John Paul II on April 13, 1999, which is on permanent display at the Vatican’s North American College.

Does America have a new religion now, that is half Catholic and half Jewish? Can’t Catholics have their own religion, without Jewish symbols? Does everything have to be about the Holocaust?

The photo below shows the Hall of Remembrance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC which I think is evocative of the interior of a church.

The Hall of Remembrance at the USHMM in Washington, DC

The eternal flame on a box filled with dirt from 38 camps

The 6,000 square-foot Hall of Remembrance at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC is on the second floor, at the end of the tour of the permanent exhibit. There is a black marble box, filled with dirt from 38 different concentration camps, that is like an altar. The room has 6 sides which represent the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, and the 6-pointed Star of David, which is the Jewish emblem. The Hall is three stories high and there is a 6-sided skylight at the top.

3 Comments

  1. “Jewish symbols” have been found in Christian churches for centuries. The Star of David for example can be seen on many Medieval cathedrals, carved in stone or depicted in rose windows. Why? Because Christianity was born in part, from and through Judaism. Jesus and all those close to him when he lived were Jewish. The Old Testament is Jewish. The ancient prophets who announced the coming of the Messiah (itself a Jewish word) were Jewish. The Psalms are Jewish. Christianity is not a “Jewish religion”, but it is intertwined with Judaism.

    That your “jaw dropped” when seeing “Jewish symbols” near the side altar in St. Peters is puzzling, as the only overtly Jewish symbol there is the menorah. The six pointed star on the banner depicts the star of Bethlehem, and the other banner depicts a dove (the Holy Spirit) over the letter “M” for “Mary”. Both banners are connected to the statue of the Virgin and Child between them.

    Finally, you say that there were never many Jews in Geseke. I do not believe that the menorah at the side altar commemorates the Holocaust, but what if it does? At one time there WAS a synagogue in Geseke, and there were Jews living and working there. Is only a great loss of life worthy of commemoration? Is the loss of a few families and their way of life, negligible?

    I do agree with you that the loss of the original altar in St. Peter’s is horrible. You can tell how beautiful it must have been just by looking at the baroque pulpit that remains.

    Comment by Hans — November 12, 2012 @ 3:53 am

  2. Thank you so much for this eye-opening and well-written post. I learned something today — had no idea that Jewish symbols are now appearing in Catholic churches or that high altars were being removed.

    Comment by churchmouse — April 2, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

  3. Six is the new holy number for the entire world?
    This is what is to be used to unite all the world’s people into One?
    God, how boring!

    Comment by sceptic — March 9, 2010 @ 9:10 am


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