Vatican City (AsiaNews) - It is unacceptable to deny or minimize in any way the Holocaust, "a crime against God and against humanity," especially on the part of those who follow Sacred Scripture. Benedict XVI reiterated this today, receiving a visit from the presidents of the leading American Jewish organizations, to whom he said that the Church is "profoundly and irrevocably" committed to rejecting anti-Semitism, adding that "I too am preparing" to go to Israel, and repeating the words with which John Paul II asked forgiveness from God for the injustices suffered by the Jewish people.
The pope's address today was a genuine synopsis of relations between Catholics and Jews, in his first meeting with the Jewish world after the controversy following the lifting of the excommunication for the Lefebvrists, including Holocaust denier bishop Williamson. Benedict XVI, in fact, addressed all of the topics, from the Holocaust to his trip to Israel to "forgiveness."
He began with the Holocaust. "The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah," he said, "was a crime against God and against humanity. This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures, according to which every human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). It is beyond question that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable. Recently, in a public audience, I reaffirmed that the Shoah must be "a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all.
"This terrible chapter in our history," he continued, "must never be forgotten. Remembrance - it is rightly said - is memoria futuri, a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship. It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews. It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church’s irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance."
In his remarks, Benedict XVI also recalled his encounters with the Jewish community in New York and Washington during his trip to the United States in 2008, calling these "experiences of fraternal esteem and sincere friendship. So too was my visit to the Synagogue in Cologne, the first such visit in my Pontificate." "It was very moving for me," he continued, "to spend those moments with the Jewish community in the city I know so well." The pope then recalled the visit he made to Auschwitz in May of 2006. "What words can adequately convey that profoundly moving experience? As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering, I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps." On that occasion, as he repeated today, Benedict XVI asserted that "the rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm, ‘We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter’, were fulfilled in a terrifying way."
The pope then spoke of his trip to the Holy Land, expected to take place in May, but not yet announced officially. "I too am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there . . . The two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall. Now that we are able to meet in a spirit of reconciliation, we must not allow past difficulties to hold us back from extending to one another the hand of friendship." Recalling the "milestone" of the conciliar decree "Nostra Aetate," he said that the Church "is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer. I now make his prayer my own."