Pope to meet with Jews, Muslims, Lutherans on German trip

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Pope Benedict XVI will meet Jewish, Muslim and fellow Christian leaders during a visit to his native Germany in September, according to a schedule released by the German Episcopal Conference Wednesday.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church will begin the four-day trip on September 22 in Berlin, where he will hold talks with representatives of the Jewish community in a room at the German parliament, the bishops said in a statement.

The next day he will meet Muslim clerics in the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin, the diplomatic mission of the Holy See, followed by talks with Lutheran representatives on his next stop, in the eastern city of Erfurt.

During his stay in the southwestern city of Freiburg on September 24, he will address representatives of the Orthodox churches.

It will be Benedict's first state visit to Germany, following appearances in the western city of Cologne while it was hosting a World Youth Day event in 2005 and his native region of Bavaria in 2006, which was declared a private visit.

Relations with Muslims were strained after he made a controversial speech at a German university in 2006 in which he appeared to link Islam with violence. The Vatican has worked since then to mend fences.

The pope also moved to heal a historic rift with Jews with a book published in March in which he exonerated the Jewish people from responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the pope's "courage".

However tensions between the two faiths have repeatedly erupted in recent years.

In 2007, the pope reinstated a "prayer for the conversion of Jews" and the following year he infuriated the Jewish community with a decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.

There have also been Vatican moves to sanctify World War II-era pope Pius XII, whose public silence on the Holocaust has been widely criticised.

© 2011 AFP

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