World Jewish Congress Lauds Pope's Holy Land Visit

Cardinal Bertone Affirms Church’s Desire to Strengthen Relations

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ROME, MAY 22, 2009 ( The executive representatives of the World Jewish Congress visited the Vatican today to thank Benedict XVI for his Holy Land pilgrimage last week.

Ronald Lauder, president of the international organization, which represents 100 Jewish communities worldwide, expressed his appreciation for the Pope’s May 8-15 trip in an audience with the Pontiff’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

A statement from the congress explained, «Despite being a complicated trip, its outcome had been positive and was a milestone for strengthening mutual understanding between Christians and Jews.»

In the face of criticism that the Holy Father did not adequately denounce the Shoah during his trip, Lauder affirmed that any statement «touching upon the sensitive issue of the Holocaust had to be made with great care.»

The communiqué reported Cardinal Bertone’s response to the Jewish leaders, affirming that the Church recognizes the «unique nature» of the Holocaust.

He also stated clearly that there is «no place in the institutions of the church for Holocaust deniers such as Bishop Williamson,» the congress noted.

Benedict XVI was criticized last January after the lifting of excommunication of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who was seen in an interview for Swedish television denying the gassing of 6 million Jews at about the same time that his excommunication was lifted.

The cardinal invited the congress leaders to cooperate in examining the archives of Pope Pius XII, and he assured them that the Vatican is progressing in the aim to make Pontiff’s papers from 1939-1945 available to historians. The Vatican is cataloguing the documents from the pontificate, which number about 16 million.

Cardinal Bertone assured congress members of the Holy See’s desire to strengthen ties with Judaism, while Lauder affirmed the need for interfaith dialogue.

The president stated, «We must strive together to ensure that freedom of religion is respected everywhere in the world and religion not used to justify extremism and terror.»

The World Jewish Congress was founded in 1936 to unite the Jewish people and address their needs, and represents communities in more than 80 countries.

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