Pope Tries to Soothe Tensions With Jews

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Pope Benedict XVI, in a visit to Rome’s main synagogue, sought to soothe tensions between Catholics and Jews on Sunday, though he and Jewish leaders aired one main point of contention: whether the church did enough against the Holocaust.

At least one prominent Italian rabbi boycotted Benedict’s visit after a move by the pope last month to advance Pope Pius XII, who led the Roman Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958, one step closer to sainthood. Many Jews, especially in Rome, say Pius did not do all he could have to stop the deportation of Jews. His defenders say his silence was diplomacy aimed at saving more lives....

In provocative remarks minutes earlier, the president of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, criticized “the silence of Pius XII,” even as he became emotional while praising Catholic religious orders for saving thousands of Jews, including some of his relatives, by hiding them during World War II. The pope and the audience rose as Mr. Pacifici greeted a group of survivors in attendance.

The chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, who presided over the event, said that while “the silence of God” is inscrutable, “the silence of man is on a different level” and “neither does it escape justice.”...

Although most said Sunday’s event helped clear the air, controversies remained. In a news conference afterward, Silvan Shalom, a deputy prime minister of Israel, said that in the private meeting he had asked the pope to facilitate opening the archives from Pius XII’s papacy. Rabbi Di Segni said he had asked Benedict to urge dioceses in Europe to make available records about Jewish children who had been baptized by the religious orders that saved them during World War II, and who often did not know their true family histories.

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