The Daily Star
Suffering of Jews killed by Nazis ‘must not be denied’
Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said at Israel’s memorial to 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany that their suffering must never be denied, a message that addressed Jewish anger over a Holocaust-denying bishop. And on his arrival earlier in the day, the pontiff underscored the Vatican’s political divisions with Israel’s right-leaning government by voicing support for a Palestinian homeland.
It was not immediately clear whether the pope’s words on the Holocaust, which fell short of an outright apology for lifting the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson in January, would heal the worst schism between the Vatican and Jews in a half-century.
Reiterating Vatican policy, Benedict called for a “just resolution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders.”
According to Hebrew usage, he noted, security is something that “arises from trust and refers not just to the absence of threat but also to the sentiment of calmness and confidence.”
Since taking over as Israel’s premier on March 31, Benjamin Netanyahu has not endorsed creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a US and Arab priority.
At the stark Yad Vashem memorial, the German-born pope said he had come to honor the memory of Jews killed in the “horrific tragedy of the Shoah,” the Hebrew term for the Holocaust, which he called an atrocity that disgraced mankind.
“May the names of these victims never perish. May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten,” he said, in prayer-like phrasing.
The pope’s comments echoed remarks he made in February on the Williamson controversy in which he told Jewish leaders “any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable.”
In the 45 years since the Second Vatican Council repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for Christ’s death, relations have been haunted by the Holocaust and the question of what the Church did, or failed to do, about it. They hit a low in January after the pope lifted the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, including Williamson, who denied 6 million Jews were killed.
The Vatican said it had not known enough about the British bishop’s past and the Church and Jewish religious leaders had hoped the issue could be closed with the visit to Yad Vashem.
Before Williamson and the other bishops can be fully readmitted into the Church, the Vatican said, they must accept the teachings of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council that urged respect for other religions.
Welcoming the pontiff, Israel’s President Shimon Peres said: “Spiritual leaders can pave the way for political leaders. They can clear the minefields that obstruct the road to peace.”
“Ties of reconciliation and understanding are now being woven between the Holy See and the Jewish people,” Peres added. “Our door is open to similar efforts with the Muslim world.”
But there was little enthusiasm among Israelis. Born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria in 1927, Benedict was a member of the Hitler Youth when enrolment was compulsory.
His biographers say he was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Adolf Hitler’s regime.
The pope’s remarks on the subject will echo around the region, particularly when he visits a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, where he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Speaking on his arrival from Jordan, the pope condemned anti-Semitism, which he said “continues to rear its ugly head” in the world, and called for a global effort to combat it.
He also stressed his desire for warm ties between Christians and Muslims and tried to wipe away residual bitterness over a 2006 lecture he made, which Muslims saw as offensive. – Reuters, with The Daily Star