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Pope Nixed Jewish Homeland, Sneezing Into Hankie: Lewis Lapham

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Lewis Lapham
Lewis Lapham of Lapham's Quarterly in New York. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

April 2 (Bloomberg) -- On Jan. 24, 1904, after gathering support for Zionist ideas among Europe’s power brokers, Theodor Herzl went for a private audience with Pope Pius X. In his diary, Herzl blamed the notable lack of success on his refusal to kiss the Pope’s ring.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

Though the Jews could not be prevented from going to Jerusalem, said the Pontiff, neither could their presence be sanctioned.

“The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people,” he told Herzl.

The ardent Zionist spoke of the pogroms, the terror and persecution, the need for a Jewish homeland. The Pope remained adamant, saying priests in Jerusalem were ready to baptize all the Jews who came to the holy city.

After his pronouncements, Herzl notes, the Pope “took a pinch of snuff and sneezed into a big red cotton handkerchief.”

I spoke with James Carroll, author of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World,” on the following topics:

1. Sacred Violence

2. Apocalyptic Fantasy

3. Muslim Rule

4. Earthly City

5. Abraham and Isaac

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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