Pope Benedict’s Yad Vashem speech disappoints Israel

The widely anticipated address by Pope Benedict XVI at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem was too general, theological and abstract to ease strains with the Jewish people.
He rekindled the Perpetual Flame in the Hall of Remembrance, laid a memorial wreath and met survivors and non-Jews honored for risking their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. But when he rose to speak, the pontiff spoke offered no apology as did his predecessor, nor did he mention Germany and the Nazis, when he said: “Those who lost their lives must never lose their names or be forgotten” and “The atrocity which disgraced mankind must never happen again,” without specifying its perpetrators.
“The Catholic Church feels deep compassion for all victims of persecution,” said the German-born pontiff.
Benedict’s five-day visit to Israel and the Palestinians began at Ben Gurion on arrival from Jordan, Monday, May 11, when he called for the establishment of a “Palestinian homeland” plunging deep in the most sensitive Middle East politics. He was greeted by a long line of welcoming dignitaries headed by Israel’s president, prime minister and heads of the various faiths.
An inter-faith meeting of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders at Notre Dame in Jerusalem later Monday broke up after the Palestinian Authority Imam Sheikh Tamimi delivered a vicious anti-Israel harangue. The pope walked out in protest. The Vatican later voiced regret over the imam’s breach of the unity and amity the pontiff sought among the faiths.
His Holy Land pilgrimage was expected to be a minefield. A member of the Hitler Youth who later enlisted to the Germany army, as pope he has angered many Jews by supporting an English bishop who denied the Holocaust and the failure of his emissary to join other delegates’ walkout from the Geneva anti-racist conference earlier this year to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel diatribe. Pius XII’s World War II with regard to the Holocaust has long been an issue for Jews.
Around 30,000 police are on duty in Israel’s largest security operation in years, involving also decoy helicopters for his carefully-balanced itinerary in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Monday’s program included a reception by Israeli president Shimon Peres, to which the parents of Gilead Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas, were invited.
Tuesday, he visits Temple Mount where he meets the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, where he will be welcomed by the chief rabbis of Israel
Wednesday, the pope visits the Palestinian refugee camp at Bethlehem and leads a mass at Manger Square. Thursday, he spends in Nazareth.

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