Pope’s visit to Rome synagogue set for Sunday, January 17
VATICAN CITY (WJC)–Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to the Rome synagogue will take place in a “new atmosphere” in relations between Catholics and Jews, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of religious relations with Judaism, has said. “We have a new atmosphere with Judaism even if there are difficulties,” he was quoted as telling reporters at a news conference in Rome.
The landmark visit on Sunday afternoon would be aimed at seeking common ground, said Kasper, adding: “In our more or less secularized society, we share many concerns: the protection of life, the family, social justice.” Catholics and Jews wanted to work together on “today’s societal problems such as HIV/AIDS”, he said.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder will be present at the synagogue in Rome, together with other Jewish leaders.
Last month, Pope Benedict put his controversial predecessor Pius XII one step away from beatification by recognizing his “heroic virtues”. The Pope, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, has been accused by some of inaction while Germany’s Nazi regime was exterminating six million Jews in the Holocaust.
“I have full understanding for the sensitivity of the survivors of the Holocaust, and we must respect this sensitivity,” Cardinal Kasper told reporters. “On the other side, we have to tell them also what Pius XII did in favour of the Jews during World War II, and this is not known enough. Many thousands of Jews were saved here in Rome and elsewhere in the world,” he said.
Polish bishops had told Pope Pius XII “not to speak too much because it would be counterproductive”, the cardinal said. Pius “did what he could do in a practical sense to help many Jews… He was not able to save all of them, that’s clear, but he saved a lot, so we must do justice to him,” Cardinal Kasper said.
Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni has said that only God could judge whether Pope Pius XII had done enough to save Jews. Di Segni, who will be Pope Benedict’s host on Sunday, also expressed hope that the synagogue visit would help combat hostility towards the Jewish world and intolerance of any religion.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress