Pope Declares Holocaust a 'Crime Against God,' Plans to Visit Israel in May

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In a message aimed at easing the rancor over a bishop's denial of the Holocaust, Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called the slaughter of 6 million Jews a crime against God, and the Vatican said he would make his first visit to Israel in May.

The pope met with about 60 American Jewish leaders on Thursday and assured them the Catholic Church was "profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism," issuing his strongest condemnation yet of Holocaust denial.

The furor blew up after Benedict lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who denied the Holocaust, sparking outrage among Jews and Catholics alike. The Vatican said Benedict did not know about the views of Bishop Richard Williamson when he agreed to lift the excommunication.

Jewish leaders applauded his comments, saying the crisis with the church that had been sparked by Bishop Richard Williamson's comments was over.

The Vatican also said that the pope's visit to Israel — the second official visit by a pope —would take place in May. Its date had not previously been announced, and as the outrage over Williamson increased, some had questioned whether the trip would take place.

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