Benedict XVI Decries Holocaust's Brutality

Leaving Israel, Reaches Out to Critics

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TEL AVIV, Israel, MAY 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is again forcefully denouncing the Holocaust, rebutting critics who say that he did not correctly decry the tragedy in his recent visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial.

One stop of the Pope’s five-day Holy Land pilgrimage, which ended today as he flew back to Rome, was Monday’s visit to the memorial where he placed a wreath in honor of the dead and met with survivors of the Holocaust.

Afterwards, he was accused by Jewish critics who noted that he did not use the word «murder» in his address at the site, nor did he make explicit reference to Nazism.

At his farewell ceremony in the Ben Gurion international airport of Tel Aviv, the Pontiff took some moments to recall his entire pilgrimage, but made particular mention of his visit to the memorial, calling it «one of the most solemn moments of my stay in Israel.»

He affirmed, «Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews — mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, friends — were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred.»

The Holy Father continued: «That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied.

«On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love.»

Some Jewish representatives also had reproached the Pontiff for not alluding to his German background in his address at Yad Vashem. The Pope responded to them implicitly by citing the discourse he gave in his May 2006 visit to Auschwitz, where he did make this connection.

On that occasion, Benedict XVI explained that he visited Auschwitz «as a son of the German people» and that for this reason he «had to come» as a duty «before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God.» He condemned the crimes of the «Nazi reign of terror.»

Friend

In today’s farewell address, given in the presence of President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Pope also gave an assurance of his good will to all peoples.

«I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people,» he affirmed.

The Pontiff expressed gratitude for his visit, and hope for «lasting peace based on justice» and «genuine reconciliation and healing» in the Holy Land.

«This land is indeed a fertile ground for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue,» he affirmed, «and I pray that the rich variety of religious witness in the region will bear fruit in a growing mutual understanding and respect.»

The Holy Father added, «We meet as brothers, brothers who at times in our history have had a tense relationship, but now are firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text of farewell address: http://zenit.org/article-25917?l=english

Full text of address at Auschwitz: http://zenit.org/article-16150?l=english

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