May 12th, 2009

Pope’s visit to Israel – Central Council is disappointed over Benedict XVI’s speech

Berlin/Jerusalem – Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has expressed deep disappointment over Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel. Speaking on the German news programme ARD Tagesthemen, she criticised the Pope for his failure to distance himself from the anti-Semitic Society of St. Pius X. and the Holocaust denier Richard Williamson, as well as from the Christian mission to the Jews. According to Knobloch, the visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial was the right moment to speak about those issues. Charlotte Knobloch also said she expected the Pope to make a general apology for the Catholic Church’s persecution of Jews in the past centuries.
The Vice-President of the Central Council, Dieter Graumann, too, said he was disappointed over the Pope’s speech. “This speech was definitely not the big gesture we were so much hoping for,” he told Handelsblatt.com. “What was especially disappointing was the fact that the Pope neither mentioned the baleful role and the guilt of the Church during the Nazi years nor, as a German-born Pope, spoke about the Holocaust, nor made any statements concerning the recent tensions.” Graumann claimed that the Pope Benedict XVI had “missed a great opportunity to win many hearts by giving a morally and emotionally convincing speech”.
The Central Council’s Secretary General, Stephan J. Kramer, has welcomed the Pope’s call for concerted action against anti-Semitism. However, he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that if the Pope remained silent on issues such as Richard Williamson and the Christian mission to the Jews, this would raise doubts about whether his statement was meant seriously. “His public call for action against anti-Semitism will ring hollow unless it is followed through with deeds.” In an interview to the news agency Deutscher Depeschendienst (ddp), Kramer said the Pope would “miss a chance to send a signal and to ease existing tensions” if he did not clarify his position on the controversial issues between the Vatican and the Jews during his visit to Israel. (12.05.2009)