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Friday, September 23, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 5.15 p.m. today Benedict XVI met with fifteen representatives of the German Jewish community, led by their president, Dieter Graumann. In his remarks to them, the Pope recalled his visit to the synagogue of Cologne on 19 August 2005, when Rabbi Teitelbaum had spoken of memory "as one of the supporting pillars that are needed if a future of peace is to be built".

"Today", said the Holy Father, "I find myself in a central place of remembrance, the appalling remembrance that it was from here that the Shoah, the annihilation of our Jewish fellow citizens in Europe, was planned and organised. Before the Nazi terror, there were about half a million Jews living in Germany, and they formed a stable component of German society. After World War II, Germany was considered the 'Land of the Shoah', where it had become virtually impossible to live. Initially there were hardly any efforts to re-establish the old Jewish communities, even though Jewish individuals and families were constantly arriving from the East. Many of them wanted to emigrate and build a new life, especially in the United States or Israel".

The Pope went on: "In this place, remembrance must also be made of the 'Kristallnacht' that took place from 9 to 10 November 1938. Only a few could see the full extent of this act of contempt for humanity, like the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who cried out from the pulpit of St. Hedwig's Cathedral: 'Outside, the Temple is burning - that too is the house of God'. The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in Him. The supposedly 'almighty' Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men. Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed".

The Holy Father went on to express his joy at the fact that, despite past history, Jewish life is now blossoming in Germany and the community has made great efforts to integrate Eastern European immigrants.

"The Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people", he said. "With the Vatican Council II Declaration 'Nostra Aetate', an 'irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship' was made. This is true of the Catholic Church as a whole. ... Naturally it is also true of the Catholic Church in Germany, which is conscious of its particular responsibility in this regard". In this context the Pope mentioned a number of initiatives to strengthen Jewish-Christian relations, such as the "Week of Fraternity", the "Jews and Christians Forum" and the "historic meeting for Jewish-Christian dialogue that took place in March 2006 with the participation of Cardinal Walter Kasper".

"We Christians must also become increasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism. For Christians, there can be no rupture in salvation history. Salvation comes from the Jews. When Jesus' conflict with the Judaism of His time is superficially interpreted as a breach with the Old Covenant, it tends to be reduced to the idea of a liberation that views the Torah merely as a slavish enactment of rituals and outward observances. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Mosaic Law, but reveals its hidden possibilities and allows more radical demands to emerge. It points us towards the deepest source of human action, the heart, where choices are made between what is pure and what is impure, where faith, hope and love blossom forth.

"The message of hope contained in the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament has been appropriated and continued in different ways by Jews and Christians. 'After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading the biblical texts - the Christian way and the Jewish way - into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God's will and His word aright'. This dialogue should serve to strengthen our common hope in God in the midst of an increasingly secularised society. Without this hope, society loses its humanity", the Pope concluded.

Following his meeting with the Jewish community, the Pope travelled by car to Berlin's Olympic stadium for the celebration of Mass.
PV-GERMANY/ VIS 20110923 (790)

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