January 18, 2010

Pope seeks to “heal wounds” between Catholics and Jews

by Benjamin Graham

Pope Benedict XVI sought to improve relations between Catholics and Jews with a visit to Rome’s main synagogue on Sunday.

“It is our duty, in response to God’s call, to strive to keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of challenges of our time, which invite us to cooperate for the good of humanity,” the Pope said in his address at the Tempio Maggiore.

The Pontiff “begged forgiveness” from Jews for everything the Catholic Church has done “that could in any way have contributed to the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.”

“May these wounds be healed forever,” he added.

The Pope also said that many Catholics, including the Vatican itself, had worked to save Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War.

“Many, including Italian Catholics, reacted with courage” in the face of Nazism, “opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives,” the Pope said.

“The Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way,” he added.

Responding to the address, Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Rome Jewish Community, said Pope Benedict XVI’s wartime predecessor, Pius XII, should have spoken out more forcefully against the “ovens of Auschwitz” during World War Two.

“Maybe it would not have stopped the death trains, but it would have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity, towards those brothers of ours transported to the ovens of Auschwitz,” Pacifici told the Pontiff during the synagogue visit.

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