May 11th, 2009

Pope's visit to Israel – Central Council expects Pope Benedict XVI to apologise

Berlin – The Central Council of Jews in Germany expects Pope Benedict XVI to apologise for the persecution of Jews. In an interview to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in Essen, the Council's Secretary General, Stephan J. Kramer, said it would be a "nice gesture" if the "Catholic Church apologised for the centuries-old persecution of Jews". He stressed that this chapter of history was "not yet closed". Kramer said Benedict XVI also had to take a firm stand on the Society of St. Pius X and bishop Williamson and to "send political signals that would give us confidence". He said he found it regrettable that Benedict XVI's attitude towards the Holocaust was very rational, in contrast to his predecessor John Paul II. "Of course it is sad that the German Pope has not a very emotional approach to the Holocaust." (The complete interview (in German) can be read athttp://www.derwesten.de/nachrichten/nachrichten/2009/5/10/news-119343263/detail.html )

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany , Charlotte Knobloch, hopes that the Pope's visit to Israel will lead to progress in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue. She said the re-introduction of the "unspeakable" Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews, the Vatican 's attitude towards the "anti-Semitic" Society of St. Pius X, and the re-admission of the Holocaust denier bishop Williamson to the Catholic Church had a very negative effect on the relations between the two religions. "Considerable damage has been done to our relations," she said in an interview to the news agency ddp. "The opinion of the world's Jewish community is that the matter is not settled." Knobloch stressed that she expected the Pope to speak unequivocally about the open issues and to pay greater attention to the Jewish position. "Now the Vatican has to draw the necessary consequences and to send a clear message that Holocaust denial is not tolerated by the Church."

"This is a good-will visit," said the Vice-President of the Central Council, Dieter Graumann, in an interview on the NDR Info radio programme. He called on the Pope to send "clearer signals" in connection with the irritation caused by the scandal surrounding the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X and the Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop Richard Williamson. (11.05.2009)