Benedict XVI: In damage control [again] to appease tensions over Good Friday slur during US visit Print E-mail
Saturday April 5 2008

Vatican proclaims its 'respect and esteem' for Jews before Pope tours US

The Vatican expressed today its "respect and esteem" for Jews and Judaism before Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming tour of the United States, which is to include a visit to a New York synagogue.

Tensions over a pre-Second Vatican Council Good Friday prayer, revived by Pope Benedict, were misplaced, the Vatican said in a statement. Jewish groups had said that the prayer, from the old Latin rite, had been used in the past as a pretext for violence and discrimination against Jews and appeared to call for the conversion of Jews to Christianity.

The statement said that the Holy See was "confident that changes made to certain expressions from the 1962 Missal did not have as their intention, in any way whatsoever, to show a change in the Catholic Church's attitude towards the Jews". It added that the Vatican "repeats its strong desire that the progress made in mutual comprehension and respect between Jews and Christians over recent years will grow further".

It added that the Vatican rejected any form of discrimination against Jews and "repudiates with firmness any form of anti-Semitism". The revised Missal includes the traditional prayer that the Jewish people might come to recognise Jesus as their Saviour.

The German-born Pope is to visit Park East synagogue in Manhattan during his time in Washington and New York from April 15-20. He will also meet Jewish leaders in Washington during the Passover festival, which begins during his US tour.

Pope Benedict, who turns 81 on April 16, came from a German family opposed to the Nazi regime but was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teenager and was later drafted into the German Army before deserting at the end of the Second World War. He visited a synagogue in Cologne during a trip to Germany in 2005 , paying tribute to Jews who died during the Nazi Holocaust, or Shoah. He later prayed at Auschwitz.

Pope John Paul II, his predecessor, became the first pontiff to enter a Jewish place of worship, when he visited the Rome synagogue in 1986.