POPE VISITS SYNAGOGUE,
WARNS OF RISING ANTI-SEMITISM
Cologne, Aug. 19, 2005 (CNA)
- Gathered with members of Germany’s Jewish community,
Pope Benedict today encouraged more “trustful dialogue”
between Jews and Christians.
"We must come to know one
another much more and much better," the pontiff said.
“This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss
over or underestimate the existing differences: in those
areas in which, due to our profound convictions in
faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas,
we need to show respect for one another.”
Progress had been made,
he said, but "much more remains to be done."
His was only the second
visit by a Pope to a synagogue. Pope John Paul II made
the first papal visit to a synagogue in Rome in 1986. He
said it was his deep desire, since his election to the
papacy, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and
representatives of Judaism in Germany.
The visit began with
Hebrew prayers in front of the synagogue's Holocaust
memorial. During his address, punctuated often with
applause, the Pope stated his commitment to continue in
the path of Pope John Paul and work toward improved
relations between Catholics and Jews.
The Pope also warned of
rising anti-Semitism and called for more vigilance.
"Today, sadly, we are
witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and
various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners,"
he told representatives from Germany's oldest Jewish
community, which dates back to the fourth century.
“The Catholic Church is
committed – I reaffirm this again today – to tolerance,
respect, friendship and peace between all peoples,
cultures and religions.”
He spoke about the
history of the Jewish people in Germany, referring to
the 20th century as “the darkest period of German and
European history, [when] an insane racist ideology, born
of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and
systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate
“The holiness of God was
no longer recognized, and consequently contempt was
shown for the sacredness of human life.
He pointed out that this
year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the
Nazi concentration camps, and the 40th anniversary of
the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate,
“which opened up new prospects for Jewish-Christian
relations in terms of dialogue and solidarity.”
The Church is conscious
of her duty to transmit this teaching about the dignity
of all people to the younger generations that did not
witness the terrible events that took place before and
during the Second World War, the Pope said.
At the end of the visit,
the Pope received an ornate shofar (a ram's horn) as a
gift from the congregation. He also met with about a
dozen volunteer workers from the synagogue congregation
who are involved in the integration of Jewish immigrants
to Germany from Eastern Europe.