Cologne synagogue leader excitedly preparing for papal visit

Cologne , Aug. 05 ( - The president of the Cologne synagogue that Pope Benedict XVI will visit later this month says that his community is excited and "very, very happy" about greeting their distinguished guest.

Michael Rado told a Vatican Radio audience that he is working energetically to ensure that the Pope will find a reception "which is adequate to the visit from such an extremely important person."

Rado remarked that although the papal visit takes on added significance because the Pontiff is German, the Jewish community understand the Pope to be representing the worldwide Church, rather than a specific nationality. "The Pope is the Pope for all the Catholic people of the world," he remarked.

In Germany, Rado continued, relations between Catholics and Jews have been characterized by "a tremendous work of collaboration" since the promulgation of the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate . He also noted that the Cologne synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazi government in 1938, was re-opened in 1959 largely because of support from Konrad Adenauer, a devout Catholic who was then the chancellor of West Germany but had earlier been the mayor of Cologne.

Pope Benedict will be one of three people to speak during the synagogue service; his address will follow talks by a board member of the synagogue, followed by the rabbi. The hour-long service will include a reading from the Old Testament, the Psalms, and prayer.