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In synagogue, Pope recalls Holocaust as 'darkest period' in Germany


In a visit to a synagogue in his native Germany, Pope Benedict XVI recalled with sorrow the Nazi persecution of the Jews as "the darkest period of German and European history."

Catholic News Service reports that the Holy Father warned of new signs of anti-Semitism and said the Catholic Church has a duty to remember the Holocaust and to teach its lessons to younger generations who did not witness the "terrible events" that took place before and during World War II.

Toward the end of his speech on Friday, he said Christians and Jews have to respect each other and added, off-the-cuff, "and love each other."

The pope spoke to some 500 Jewish representatives in Cologne, in a synagogue destroyed during the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom and rebuilt in 1959. The Jewish community in Cologne is the oldest in Europe north of the Alps and was decimated during World War II.

The 78-year-old pope was warmly welcomed as he entered the complex, pausing to pray silently before a memorial to Holocaust victims. After the singing of Psalm 23 -- "The Lord is my shepherd" -- an elder blew a long blast on the ram's horn, or shofar, a Jewish ritual announcing an important event.

At the end of the service, the sung blessing of "Sim Shalom" implored God to grant peace and goodness: "Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of your face."

The hour long visit marked only the second time a modern pope has entered a Jewish place of worship. Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to Rome's synagogue in 1986.

In Cologne, Pope Benedict began his talk with the Hebrew words, "Shalom lachem!" ("Peace to you!"). He emphasized that he wanted to follow his predecessor's lead and "continue on the path toward improved relations and friendship with the Jewish people."

"In the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neopaganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry," he said.

The pope said the victims of this "unspeakable and previously unimaginable crime" numbered several thousand in Cologne alone.

"The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently contempt was shown for the sacredness of human life," he said.

Like Pope John Paul, the pontiff said, he wanted to bow his head before those who died and remind the world that those tragic events must "never cease to rouse consciences."

SOURCE
In synagogue, pope recalls Holocaust as 'darkest period' in Germany (Catholic News Service 19/8/05)

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22 Aug 2005