Pope visits Cologne synagogue torched by Nazis
19 August 2005, COLOGNE - Saying he intends to reinforce ties between Catholics and Jews during his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI capped the second day of his four-day visit to his native Germany Friday with a moving visit to a Jewish synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis.
19 August 2005
COLOGNE - Saying he intends to reinforce ties between Catholics and Jews during his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI capped the second day of his four-day visit to his native Germany Friday with a moving visit to a Jewish synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis.
Addressing an audience that included Holocaust survivors, the pontiff said, "I bow my head before those who suffered during the Shoah."
The pope's appeal for reconciliation between German Christians and German Jews was made at a rebuilt synagogue in Cologne that was put to the torch during the November 9, 1938, nationwide Nazi attacks on Jewish homes, businesses, schools and synagogues. In Cologne alone, 11,000 Jews were deported to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.
Echoing the words of Cologne Rabbi Netanel Teidelbaum who read opening verses from the book of Genesis, the pope said, "God made us all 'in his likeness' and thus marked us with a transcendent dignity. Before God, all humans possess the same dignity, regardless of which people, nation or religion they belong to."
Tracing the dark history of anti-Semitism over the centuries in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust, he said, "In the 20th century, in the darkest hour of German and European history, a mad, neo-heathen, racial ideology led to a state-planned and systematically conducted attempt to eliminate European Jewry, to what has gone down in history as the Shoah."
Calling for reconciliation between Jew and Christian, he added, "We must display mutual respect and mutual love for one another. Only in that way can we, Christians and Jews, move forward into a future of love and peace."
He added, "Our rich, shared heritage and our sibling relations oriented by growing trust oblige us to bear even clearer witness and cooperate in practical ways in defending and promoting human rights and the sacredness of human life, family values, social justice and peace in the world."
It was only the second visit by a Roman Catholic pontiff to a Jewish place of worship. Pope John Paul II visited a synagogue in Rome in 1986 and undertook an unprecedented trip to Israel in March 2000.
On his first official trip as pope, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, arrived in Germany Thursday, describing himself as another pilgrim like the 400,000 young Catholics who have gathered in Cologne for World Youth Day.
Unlike his predecessor Pope John Paul II, he did not kiss the ground on stepping off his plane. But the crowds were nonetheless elated to see the new pontiff.
Everywhere he went, crowds responded with cheers, waving the flags of many nations. Chants of "Benedetto" and sports-stadium-style Mexican waves were also part of the enthusiastic welcome as the pope was driven through the streets in a 'popemobile' with armoured glass.
Using several languages fluently in succession, Benedict said he had come to Cologne Cathedral as a pilgrim to venerate the relics there of the Magi, the three wise men or kings recorded in the New Testament as adoring the infant Jesus Christ.
Outside the cathedral, he departed from his notes to warmly describe the city as a place of "happy Catholicism" that he hoped would rub off on the World Youth Day (WYD) visitors.
The four-day trip, culminating in a papal mass on Sunday, is the main feature of the boisterous WYD youth rally for 400,000 Catholics under 30 that began on Tuesday. The last pope to visit Germany was John Paul II in 1996, when the reception was more muted.
Police were on alert just days after one of Europe's greatest ecumenical figures, Roger Schutz, 90, was stabbed to death by a deranged woman in his monastery in France. The pope prayed with 50,000 pilgrims for Brother Roger's soul.
The visit to Germany is significant for the pope. Although the World Youth Day venue was picked long before he became pontiff, the selection served to underscore the new pope's background.
German President Horst Koehler, in welcoming remarks, noted that the pope was a German of the generation that had served as teenage home guards under the Nazis and had now succeeded a pope from Poland, the first nation that the Nazis had invaded in 1939.
"This fact encourages me, 60 years after the end of the anti-human and anti-God ideology that reigned in Germany," said the president.
The Ratzinger memoirs say he was conscripted at age 17 into a schoolboy anti-aircraft-gun unit as a telephonist, then into a labour battalion and finally into a guard unit that did little more than march.
Benedict is to spend all four days of his visit in Cologne, this year's venue for the WYD congress, held in a different location every two years.
With out-of-state forces helping, some 4,000 police officers were on duty, both to protect the pope and to keep order among the pilgrims.
Cologne's narrow medieval streets were blocked by the crowds, highways closed and the Rhine, a busy river transport route, was shut down completely for several hours Thursday afternoon as the pope proceeded down the river in the ferry.
Benedict is the first German citizen to become pope since Hadrian VI, who reigned nearly 500 years ago and came from Utrecht, then part of a loose German empire and today in the Netherlands. Dutch commentators dispute whether Hadrian should be considered German.
Subject: German news