January 25, 1904: Herzl Finally Meets the Pope, but the meeting did not go well for him!
Herzl wrote in his diary that the Pope received him standing, and held out his hand, but Herzl refused to kiss it. Herzl also wrote in his diary that the go-between Lippay had told him in advance that he must kiss the Pope's hand, but Herzl said he wouldn't do it. "I believe that this spoiled my chances with him, for everyone who visits him kneels and at least kisses his hand. This hand kiss had worried me a great deal and I was glad when it was out of the way". Herzl begun the meeting with the Pope by thanking him for the opportunity. Herzl put forth the request that brought him to seek audience with the Pope. But the Pope replied by saying:
"We are unable to favor this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem - but we could never sanction it. The ground of Jerusalem, if it were not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church, I cannot answer you otherwise. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people. Jerusalem cannot be placed in Jewish hands."
Herzl then asked the Pope if he had any problem with the Holy land being under the control of the Muslims? The Pope relied:
"I know it is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. But we simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do."
However, Herzl attributed the Pope's answer due to Herzl's refusal to kiss the Pope's hand.
Herzl continued to plead with the Pope and told him that the Zionist movement was solely based on the suffering of the Jews, that that they were to push aside all religious issues.
The Pope replied that as the Head of the Church he could not allow it. He said if he did, one of two things would happen.
'Either the Jews would retain their ancient faith and continue to await the Messiah whom we believe has already appeared - in which case they are denying the divinity of Jesus and we cannot assist them or else they would get there with no religion whatever, and then we can have nothing to do with them at all.'
The Pope also told Herzl that the Jewish faith had been superceded by the teachings of Christ and that 'we cannot admit that it enjoys any validity. The Jews who should have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ have not done so to date.' Herzl replied that terror and persecution were not the best methods to convert the Jews.
Herzl stressed that his Jewish people were under duress in Europe and that they desperately needed to acquire land out of Europe urgently. The Pope then asked Hertz why must it be Jerusalem? Herzl replied that he was not asking for Jerusalem but for the 'secular land' of Palestine. The Pope said he would not allow it. Herzl kept asking the Pope if he were aware of the condition of Europe's Jews and the Pope told Herzl that if the Jews came to Palestine that the churches and the priests would be ready and waiting for them to baptize them all.
We learn from Herzl's diary that his audience with the Pope lasted 25 minutes.