Pope's WWII-era activities stir up controversy on Holy Land visit

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JERUSALEM -- Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to the Holy Land veered into controversy today when the Vatican's spokesman issued varying statements about the pontiff's activities during World War II.

The differing accounts came after some Israeli officials voiced disappointment that Benedict's speech at their Holocaust memorial had failed to acknowledge his witness of Nazi terror as a teenage German conscript.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi first declared that the pope, growing up as Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, "never, never, never" belonged to the Hitler Youth. Later he backtracked, acknowledging what Ratzinger, then a Roman Catholic cardinal, told an interviewer for his 1997 biography: that he had been forced to join the movement.

The confusion highlighted the Vatican's defensiveness over Benedict's speech Monday at the Yad Vashem memorial, where he declared that Adolf Hitler's extermination of Jews must "never be denied, belittled or forgotten" but did not use the word Nazi or German or mention his own upbringing in wartime Germany.

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Adam Holland - 5/13/2009

Have you forgotten Günter Grass?


Michael Glen Wade - 5/13/2009

Oh, they do, just not necessarily from the same people.

John R. Maass - 5/13/2009

Leftists with the same track record as the Pope don't come under such scrutiny....