Sunday, September 13, 2015

On Protocol, Reverence and Chivalry

I'm writing this because it often annoys me when bloggers pull posts and don't explain why.

On September 6, Crown Heights.Info ran the above picture with this commentary:
"Picture of the Day: Rivkah Would Not Bow"
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin paid a visit to Pope Francis in Rome, accompanied by his personal secretary Rivkah – an Orthodox-Jewish woman. When a person usually greets the pope, they shake his hand and bow down. But when Rivkah’s turn came to greet the pope, she explained to him that for religious reasons she could not shake his hand, nor could she bow down since he was wearing a cross. The pope then covered his cross with his hand, and bowed down to her!
I put up a post on this. You probably missed it as it was up for only a few hours in the middle of the night. I didn't really have a problem with the bowing thing (for some of the reasons given below) but I was disturbed by the alleged covering of the cross. However, two Catholic commenters quickly wrote these comments:
Probably just held on to it so it didn't sling into his face. But who knows? 
I have worn medallions when bowing to a lady; I always cover it (whatever it is) with my hand so it doesn't hang and look silly while bowing . . . and I might add . . . A gentleman respects and honors all ladies both for the love of his lady and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
Ironically, in my post I had praised Rivkah Ravitz for honoring God. I said we needed her on our side. See, that's the kind of chivalrous, ecumenical guy that I am. But I criticized Pope Francis for (allegedly) denying Him, and then spent a few righteous paragraphs talking about martyrs. Of course, the comments made me realize that I had been too hasty on the second part. So, I pulled the post.

Angelqueen initially linked to my post, but then pulled it in turn, in addition linking to this quasi-debunking at Israel National News:
'Rivka Didn't Bow to Pope' – the True Story 
Heroic tale of haredi woman in presidential entourage who refused to bow to pope was a little overstated. 
(By Gil Ronen, 8 September 2015) 
Various news sites and social media rumor mills have been spreading a photo of a haredi woman standing grim faced in front of Pope Francis, and telling a story to go along with it. Sopposedly, the woman – Rivka Ravitz, Bureau Chief of President Reuven Rivlin – refused to bow to the pope, because of the cross that was hanging from his neck. 
The pope even apologized for the cross and was quick to hide it, according to the tale, after Ravitz explained that she was halachically forbidden to bow to him because of the cross. 
The story appears to be largely fictional, however. 
The photo, taken by the Government Press Office during President Rivlin's visit to Rome last week, does show Rivka Ravitz, and it does show the pope bowing to her. However, according to a source in the President's Residence, Ravitz did bow to Francis a moment before the photo was taken. 
Ravitz – the daughter in law of Rabbi Avraham Ravitz ztz”l, a longtime Knesset member – does not shake hands with male diplomats, because she is observant of halakha (Jewish law). 
“All diplomatic personages are made aware of this,” explained the source. “Instead of this there is a small bow. The pope received the same message through his aides. The president told him who she is and said that she is the daughter in law of a great rabbi, as in any presentation of an entourage, and she bowed as she always does on these occasions.” 
"It is not true that the pope covered the cross with his hand or apologized, nor is any of the other things having to do with relations between Judaism and Christianity, which have been attributed to the meeting,” the source said. “The pope said nothing and he gave the same bow generally throughout the presentation of the entourage.”
Thanks to Seattle Kim and Anthony Emmel for having good sense, and Cyprian, an administrator at Angelqueen, for sussing out the possible problems and ambiguities of the original description, and for finding the Israel National News article.

But the commenter below the Angelqueen piece (and not associated with Angelqueen) who called Ravitz a "feminizi" and an "ugly . . . b**ch" who should have been "slapped . . . in the chops",  and me "womanish" and a pro-Vatican II "schismatic" for pulling the post and apologizing (on Angelqueen) knows exactly where he can go.

You know, it's that place that doesn't accept Southern gentlemen.


On Kim's implicit recommendation  here's a re-link to that fascinating, moving and even funny account (for both Jews and Christians) of another Pope receiving a Jewish visitor, see the testimony of Theodore Herzl in When Theodore Herzl Met Pope Pius X.


  1. Any....person...boyman?...that calls a lady a bitch, etc. in my presence gets asked to step outside. Just saying....

  2. Thanks for the explanation. I was one of the few who saw the original post, and I was wondering why you'd pulled it.

    Though it has to be said, it wouldn't be all that surprising if this pope had covered his crucifix in order to protect Jewish sensibilities. And I'm far from enthused with all this bowing to lay people, especially those who deny Christ.

    1. Yeah, what you said in the first sentence of your second paragraph, which is I guess my quasi-excuse. To me, the bowing just appears to be a handshake substitute (perhaps like the Japanese tradition?) It seems like these days, half the people the Pope meets are non-Christians, and that didn't start with Francis. If you read the story that I link to, even Pius X paid a certain deference to Theodore Herzl by calling him "Commander". I know it's not quite the same, but still.

  3. Why did this woman go to Vatican at all? What was the point of that?

  4. I am honored you reprinted that great Pius X story.! Lots of folks out there printing a version of the Rivkah story.

    This site, The Bear and Te Deum are my favorite sites.

    Seattle Kim ;-)

    1. Thanks again, Kim. By the way, I hope you didn't notice that for about an hour the post said, "Seattle Jim" (!). I saw it after Mass and was mortified that I couldn't edit it on my phone. Obviously, I can't do anything right these days. :)

    2. Oh no! I assure you I am all girl!!

      Seattle kim

  5. The Pope was bowing down so she could peek at the 729 bar code stamped on his little white cap. (A-OK!)