Saturday, May. 30, 2009

Reassure the Jews

After his three-day stay in Jordan, the Pope will arrive in Israel on Monday, and will head straight to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Jewish leaders both inside and outside Israel have said they hope he will use this opportunity to further condemn the stance of archtraditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson, whose excommunication was lifted at the same time that an interview aired in which he claimed that Nazis didn't use gas chambers to kill people and that Jewish victims of Hitler were no more than 300,000 rather than 6 million. There is also tension over the historical legacy of Pope Pius XII, the Pontiff during World War II, who is criticized in a photo caption at Yad Vashem. On his 2000 pilgrimage, Pope John Paul II confirmed for Jews worldwide what they had sensed from the beginning of his papacy: that they were dear to his heart and high on his list of priorities. For some Jewish leaders, the jury is still out on his successor. Benedict will also pay a visit to the Western Wall and a have a variety of interfaith encounters with Jewish leaders that should give him ample opportunity to win over the followers of a religion that both he and John Paul II have characterized as "older brothers."

See pictures of 60 years of Israel.