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Europe' Smallest Countries: - THE VATICAN

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Author Topic: Europe' Smallest Countries: - THE VATICAN  (Read 3160 times)
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« Reply #120 on: March 19, 2009, 10:39:33 am »

Better lives

The Pope says HIV/Aids threatens economies and societies.
The Pope is echoing the teaching of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, whose own advocacy of abstinence was also fiercely criticised, and led to accusations even that he was responsible for the spread of disease.

The Church's case has not been helped in the past when senior figures - including the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo - have insisted that HIV inevitably passes through holes in the latex from which condoms are made, a claim dismissed by the World Health Organization.

However, the Church's concern about condoms is only part of wider teaching aimed at allowing people to live better, more fulfilled lives.

It believes that encouraging people to use condoms to minimise the worst effects of behaviour that in itself impoverishes their lives is to fail them.

Pope Benedict put it this way not long after he took office in 2005. He told African bishops that contraception was among trends leading to a breakdown in sexual morality.

"It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability,

is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality."

In other words, there is something at stake that is greater even than the fight against Aids - particularly as, in the Church's view, condoms are not as effective as abstinence in combating this deadly infection.
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« Reply #121 on: March 19, 2009, 10:41:58 am »

Cultural objections

It is not as though Pope Benedict underestimates HIV, acknowledging that "the virus seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the [African] continent".

However, Catholics point out that if a couple, one of whom had the virus, consistently used a condom they would reduce the yearly risk of passing it on to the uninfected partner by about 87% - which they say falls well short of an adequate means of disease prevention.

Uganda used a policy combining abstinence, fidelity and - only if necessary - the use of condoms, to achieve a significant reduction in the spread of HIV.

Even some senior Roman Catholics take a pragmatic view of the use of condoms.

The Belgian Cardinal Goddfried Daneels said in 2004 that using a condom with the intention of stopping disease was morally different from using one to prevent the creation of life.

He said condoms could be the lesser of the two evils.

Father Gerry O'Collins, Emeritus Professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, said the commandment 'thou shalt not kill', "trumps other issues".

The Catholic aid agency Cafod is bound to uphold the official teaching of the Church, and it makes clear that it does not fund or advocate the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms.

However, Cafod also points out that condoms are particularly effective for people such as prostitutes who are at highest risk of infection.

Aid agencies can find that their biggest challenge is trying to overcome cultural objections to using condoms.

It could be that the way Pope Benedict chose to repeat the Church's teaching about contraception, even at a time when Aids is rampant, was also significant.

He could have included the issue in a major homily at a high-profile mass.

The fact that he dealt with it in the plane to Africa, answering questions from journalists, could be seen as a subtle distancing of his message from realities on the ground.
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« Reply #122 on: March 19, 2009, 05:46:25 pm »

                                   The Pope's Anti-Condom Remarks: Candor Over P.R.

Jeff Israely
– Thu Mar 19, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to condoms, even as a weapon to help combat the spread of AIDS, should surprise no one who knows anything about Catholic Church teachings. The 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, penned by Pope Paul VI, explicitly forbids contraception as denying the Creator's will that humans be fruitful and multiply. In the years since, despite scientific consensus that condoms greatly reduce the risk of contracting the HIV virus, nothing has budged at the Vatican. Any artificial contraception is a sin against God. Full stop.

Still, Benedict's public declaration on March 17, as he was en route to Africa on his first visit as Pontiff, that advocacy of condoms actually "increases the problem" of AIDS has pushed the rhetorical envelope - and enraged may inside and outside the church - like only this quietly frank, theologically driven Pontiff knows how. The Spanish government announced it was sending 1 million condoms to Africa just as Benedict was arriving on the AIDS-ravaged continent. By the following evening, top government officials in France, Germany and the Netherlands had all publicly condemned the Pope's statement. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, accompanying Benedict on his weeklong trip to Cameroon and Angola, offered no sign that the Pontiff would back down from his statement. (See pictures of the Pope in France.)

Amid the outrage and consternation lies the question: Why? If we already know the basic tenets of church teaching - not to mention the extent of the AIDS epidemic and disproportionate ignorance about condom use in Africa - why did the Pope say what he said, when and where he said it? What do this and other recent episodes tell us about how the modern papacy operates at that unique nexus where philosophy meets public relations? And why, nearly four years into his reign, does this hyper-articulate and well-versed Pope continue to see his attempts at mass communication blow up in his face? (See pictures of the path of Pope Benedict XVI.)

First, to be clear, the Pope was responding to a reporter's question during the brief press conference that regularly takes place aboard his Alitalia jet just before takeoff (there have been 11 trips abroad). But he could hardly have been taken by surprise, as the questions are submitted ahead of time. Benedict might easily have opted for a pat response along the lines of, "Church teaching is clear on contraception. We must instead focus on education, abstinence and caring for those already infected."

Instead, the Pope chose to favor the letter of his philosophy over a smooth p.r. ride. Again. As with the recent controversy when he lifted the excommunication of four ultra-traditionalist bishops, including a Holocaust denier, Benedict plowed ahead with what he believed was the right thing to do, even if it brought a maelstrom of bad press. In this case, Benedict believes that condom use is part of a culture of promiscuity that is breaking down the traditional family, which in turn feeds the kind of behavior that spreads the HIV virus. (See pictures of the global fight against AIDS.)

The most explicit Vatican statement on the topic was the 2003 paper "Family Values vs. Safe Sex," written by the then head of the Pontifical Council, the late Cardinal Alfonso LÓpez Trujillo, who was widely criticized for questioning the science behind the efficacy of condoms in preventing AIDS. But the document also laid out the idea that Benedict seemed to be alluding to on the papal plane. "To control the pandemic [of AIDS], it is necessary to promote responsible sexual behavior that is inculcated by means of authentic sexual education, that respects the dignity of man and woman, and that does not consider others as mere instruments of pleasure," wrote LÓpez Trujillo. " 'Safe sex' campaigns have led not to an increase in prudence, but to an increase in sexual promiscuity and condom use. Human behavior is an important factor in the transmission of AIDS. Without adequate education aimed at abandoning certain risky sexual behavior in favor of well-balanced sexuality, as in premarital abstinence and marital fidelity, one risks perpetuating the pandemic's disastrous results." 
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« Reply #123 on: March 19, 2009, 05:47:43 pm »

In 2006 Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, retired archbishop of Milan - and one of the towering intellects in the church, often considered the yin to Benedict's yang - opined that condoms might be the lesser evil in some situations, notably when one partner in a proper marriage has the HIV virus. That same year, the Vatican health office said it would proceed with an internal study of the issue, though nothing further has come out.

Benedict's comments on Tuesday are the clearest sign that little if anything will change, as the Pope continues his quest to challenge secular trends both inside and outside his church by adhering to - and openly pronouncing - rigid stands on sexual and moral matters. (See pictures of the Pope in the U.S.)

Of course, his philosophy runs straight into reality. Catholic missionary groups are at the center of efforts to reduce the rate of HIV infection in Africa, which accounts for just over 12% of the world's population but has more than 60% of its AIDS cases. Speaking on French radio, European parliament member Daniel Cohen-Bendit called the Pope's latest comments "close to premeditated murder."

It is gospel in this information age that Benedict, for better or worse, should have learned by now: inflammatory rhetoric begets inflammatory rhetoric. What is less clear is whether this and the other recent firestorms he has sparked make the Pope more or less relevant to the citizens of the world - and to members of his own flock.
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« Reply #124 on: March 20, 2009, 10:35:10 am »

                                                   Pope Shuffles Vernal Equinox

National Geographic
March 20, 2009

Another equinox oddity: A rule of the calendar keeps spring almost always arriving on March 20 or 21—but sometimes on the 19th—MacRobert said.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar, which most of the world now observes, to account for an equinox inconvenience.

If the he hadn't established the new calendar, every 128 years the equinox would have come a full calendar day earlier—eventually putting Easter in chilly midwinter.

"It begins with the fact that there is not an exact number of days in a year," MacRobert said.

Before the pope's intervention, the Romans and much of the European world marked time on the Julian calendar.

Instituted by Julius Caesar, the old calendar counted exactly 365.25 days per year, averaged over a four-year cycle. Every four years a leap day helped keep things on track.

It turns out, however, that there are 365.24219 days in an astronomical "tropical" year—defined as the time it takes the sun, as seen from Earth, to make one complete circuit of the sky.

Using the Julian calendar, the spring and fall equinoxes and the seasons were arriving 11 minutes earlier each year. By 1500 the vernal equinox had fallen back to March 11.

To fix the problem, the pope decreed that most century years (such as 1700, 1800, and 1900) would not be leap years. But century years divisible by 400, like 2000, would be leap years.

Under the Gregorian calendar, the year is 365.2425 days long. "That gets close enough to the true fraction that the seasons don't drift," MacRobert said.

With an average duration of 365.2425 days, Gregorian years are now only 27 seconds longer than the length of the tropical year—an error which will allow the gain of one day over a period of about 3,200 years.

Nowadays, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory's Chester, equinoxes migrate through a period that occurs about six hours later from calendar year to calendar year, due to the leap year cycle.

The system resets every leap year, slipping a little bit backward until a non-leap century year leap nudges the equinoxes forward in time once again.
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« Reply #125 on: March 21, 2009, 06:28:00 am »

                                   Pope condemns sorcery, urges Angolans to convert

Victor L. Simpson,
Associated Press Writer
March 21, 2009

– Pope Benedict XVI appealed to the Catholics of Angola on Saturday to reach out to and convert believers in witchcraft who feel threatened by "spirits" and "evil powers" of sorcery.

On his first pilgrimage to Africa, the pope drew on the more than 500 years of Roman Catholicism in Angola, saying that Christianity was a bridge between the local peoples and the Portuguese settlers.

"In today's Angola, Catholics should offer the message of Christ to the many who live in the fear of spirits, of evil powers by whom they feel threatened, disoriented, even reaching the point of condemning street children and even the most elderly because — they say — they are sorcerers."

In Africa, some churchgoing Catholics also follow traditional animist religions and consult medicine men and diviners who are condemned by the church. People accused of sorcery or of being possessed by evil powers sometimes are killed by fearful mobs.

Benedict counseled Catholics to "live peacefully" with animists and other nonbelievers and urged Angolans to be the "new missionaries" to bring people who believe in sorcery to Christ.

Eighty percent of Angola's 16 million people are Christian, about 65 percent Catholic.

Benedict spoke at a Mass at the capital's blue-domed St. Paul's Church, where light streamed through stained glass windows onto veiled nuns and priests and bishops resplendent in white and lilac robes.

Before the invitation-only Mass for nuns and priests, Benedict was welcomed by a huge crowd.

Children screamed their excitement and held up cell phones to take photographs of the 81-year-old pontiff. Young girls prostrated themselves before him in a sea of pink veils.

People chanted and swayed to drumbeats and the rhythm of hymns in this tropical seaside capital. Many women wrapped their waists in cloth printed with photographs of the pope's face.

The pope lovingly caressed the faces of children and sketched the cross on their foreheads.

Inside, veiled nuns and bishops resplendent in white robes with cerise belts and skull caps celebrated Mass with Benedict, who arrived in Luanda on Friday on the second leg of his tour of the continent with the fastest growing Catholic population in the world.

"This is a very emotional day for me, my first time to get a Papal blessing," said Sister Iliria Olivera, from Oaxaca in Mexico, among hundreds of foreign missionaries in the church. Olivera for nine years has been working with her Sisters of the Divine Pastor, teaching children and running a maternal health clinic outside Luanda.

After the Mass, the pope mounted a podium to bless the frenzied crowd of faithful who cheered him, crying out "Viva ao papa! Viva!"

On Friday, Benedict lamented what he called strains on the traditional African family, condemning sexual violence against women and chiding countries that have approved abortion.

Earlier in the weeklong trip, Benedict drew criticism from aid agencies and some European governments when he said that condoms were not the answer to Africa's severe AIDS epidemic, suggesting that sexual behavior was the issue.

In his remarks to diplomats, Benedict also called for a "conversion of hearts" to rid Angola and the rest of Africa of corruption.

Critics say last year's elections, which were swept by President Eduardo Dos Santos' party, were marred by fraud and corruption. Dos Santos has been in power for 30 years.

In his welcome speech after arriving from Cameroon on Friday, Benedict referred to Angola's poverty as well as its rich natural resources, saying the multitude of poor Angolans must not be forgotten.

Angola is rich in diamonds and oil, but war and mismanagement have left most of its people in poverty.

He referred to his own childhood growing up in Nazi Germany, saying he had known war and national divisions and was keenly aware that dialogue was a way of overcoming "every form of conflict and tension and making every nation, including your own, into a house of peace and fraternity."

Angola was lacerated by a civil war that started with its 1975 independence and ended in 2002. Its history as a former Portuguese colony has given the country Christian roots.

Dos Santos, who welcomed the pope at the airport Friday, said his government has good relations with the Vatican and underlined the strong role the church plays in the country's recovery from nearly three decades of war.

In a message of welcome published in the local press Saturday, he said "Today, the signs of reconstruction of Angola are already visible and we can say that the benefits of peace can be felt in the life of each citizen."


AP correspondent Michelle Faul
and reporter Casimiro Siona
contributed to this report.
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« Reply #126 on: March 21, 2009, 07:44:31 pm »

                                      Pope's condom comments could fuel HIV/AIDS

Fri Mar 20, 2009

– The International AIDS Society on Friday condemned Pope Benedict XVI's denunciation of condoms as outrageous and insulting, warning that his comments could fuel HIV infection in devout Africa.

IAS Executive Director Craig McClure pointed out that 17 percent of the total population practises Catholicism in Africa, the continent hardest hit by the HIV/AIDs pandemic.

"Catholics throughout Africa rely on the spiritual guidance of the Pope," McClure said in a statement.

"To suggest that condom use contributes to the HIV problem is not merely contrary to scientific evidence and global consensus, it contributes to fueling HIV infection and its consequences - sickness and death.

"Such outrageous comments are not appropriate coming from the highest office in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church," he added.

The society brings together HIV/AIDS professionals and organises the biennial international AIDS conferences that are a major platform for scientific research and best practices to fight the pandemic.

While the Roman Catholic Church's historic stance against contraception was known, it was the first time that a pope had spoken out publicly against the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection for more than 30 years, the IAS said.

Pope Benedict XVI sparked global condemnation with his comments as he began his first visit to Africa as pontiff on Tuesday

Benedict said on the plane taking him to Cameroon that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."

The IAS insisted that condoms are a critical, cheap and proven element in HIV prevention.

"Instead of spreading ignorance, the Pope should use his global position of leadership to encourage young people, who are our future, to protect themselves and others from HIV infection using all the tools we have at our disposal, including condoms," said IAS president Julio Montaner.

"His remarks are insulting to the tireless efforts of committed scientific, public health and human rights leaders around the world to protect the poorest of the poor from HIV infection."
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« Reply #127 on: March 22, 2009, 06:46:32 am »

                                          Pope decries 'clouds of evil' over Africa

March 22, 2009

– Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass Sunday with an estimated one million Angolans and decried the "clouds of evil" over Africa that have spawned war, tribalism and ethnic rivalry that reduce poor people to slavery.

The biggest crowd of Benedict's seven day pilgrimage to Africa turned up in sweltering heat for the open-air service on the outskirts of Angola's seaside capital, Luanda, the last major event before the end of the visit on Monday.

"How true it is that war can destroy everything of value", Benedict said mopping his sweaty brow with a white handkerchief.

Evils in Africa have "reduced the poor to slavery and deprived future generations of the resources needed to create a more solid and just society," he said.

Benedict told the crowds clustered in a huge vacant lot near a cement factory that he regretted the deaths of two women who were trampled in a stampede at a stadium Saturday before his address to young Angolans.

He extended his condolences to the victims' families and wished those injured a speedy recovery. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the two 20-year-old women were trampled when gates opened at a Luanda stadium and the died later in hospital.

The spokesman said the Vatican's No. 2 official Cardinal Tarcisio Pertone will visit some 40 injured people in hospital.
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« Reply #128 on: April 12, 2009, 09:49:52 am »

                          Vatican blocks Caroline Kennedy appointment as US ambassador

By Alex Spillius
11 Apr 2009

Vatican sources told Il Giornale that their support for abortion disqualified Ms Kennedy and other Roman Catholics President Barack Obama had been seeking to appoint.

Mr Obama was reportedly seeking to reward John F Kennedy's daughter, who publicly gave her support to his election bid. She had been poised to replace Hillary Clinton as New York senator, but dropped out amid criticism that she lacked enough experience for the job.

The Italian paper said that the Vatican strongly disapproved of Mr Obama's support for abortion and stem cell research. The impasse over the ambassadorial appointment threatens to cloud his meeting with the Pope during a G8 summit in Itay in July.

Ms Kennedy, 53, has said that she supports abortion. Raymond Flynn, a former US ambassador to the Vatican, said earlier this week that Ms Kennedy would be a poor choice.

"It's imperative, it's essential that the person who represents us to the Holy See be a person who has pro-life values. I hope the President doesn't make that mistake," he told the Boston Herald. "She said she was pro-choice. I don't assume she's going to change that, which is problematic."

The White House refused to comment.
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« Reply #129 on: April 24, 2009, 07:01:57 am »

                                                    Pius XII files to be opened

                                      Collection by late Vatican expert on wartime pope

- Rome,
April 23, 2009

- A collection of documents that could shed new light on the role of controversial wartime pope Pius XII in helping Jews is set to be opened up to scholars.

Some of the files belonging to late Jesuit priest Robert Graham would not otherwise have been made available until 2013, when the Vatican completes sorting out its WWII archives.

In the past, many Jews have stressed that a full verdict on the pope accused of keeping quiet on the Holocaust, and nonetheless up for sainthood, would only be possible when those archives are opened.

News of the decision by the head of Father Graham's Jesuit order was hailed by the inter-religious Pave the Way Foundation which will have exclusive access to the files.

''I'm very, very enthusiastic (about the project),'' foundation president Gary Krupp, a Jew, told the Catholic News Service.

One of the researchers who will start digitally scanning the documents this summer said the collection included ''very promising'' material.

Until he died in 1997, Father Graham was considered the Vatican's top expert on what Pius did in the war.

The Vatican has been building evidence of how Pius helped Jews in Italy - although may Jewish organisations will still not accept the argument that he kept silent on the Shoah for fear of provoking the Nazis into even greater savagery.

Last month Father Peter Gumpel, the so-called 'postulator' of Pius's cause for beatification, said a newly discovered document urged Rome nuns to shelter whoever was being ''persecuted''.

Gumpel said the document - together with a similar one sent to then bishop of Assisi, Monsignor Giuseppe Nicolini - proved that Pius did all he could to help Jews during the Nazi occupation of Italy.

The accusations by critics that he did nothing to prevent the infamous round-up of 1,022 Jews in the Rome Ghetto on October 16,1943 was ''an absolute falsehood,'' Gumpel said.
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« Reply #130 on: April 24, 2009, 07:03:51 am »


Referring to the beatification process - the final step towards sainthood - Gumpel said the paperwork was completed and was awaiting Pope Benedict XVI's signature.

Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said recently that moves to make Pius a saint were the Vatican's business.

''The representation of Pius XII as indifferent towards the victims of the Nazis...or even as 'Hitler's Pope' (the title of a recent book) is outrageous and historically unsustainable,'' Bertone told a conference marking the recent 50th anniversary of Pius's death.

Bertone said the polemics - revived last October when a Jewish minister called plans to put Pius one step from sainthood ''unacceptable'' - were ''biased and ever less comprehensible''.

Pius was the victim of ''a defamatory legend,'' Bertone said, reiterating a view expressed by Pius's supporters.

Jewish groups say the only way to settle the issue of Pius's wartime role is to open the Vatican's archives on the war years.

But officials have said it would take ''at least six to seven years'' to collate the thousands of files.

The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations met with Pope Benedict XVI in November to ask him to put off Pius's beatification until after the archives are available for study.

Benedict replied that he was ''seriously considering'' it, the Jewish group said.

Vatican sources later stressed the pope was answering a private question and not taking an official stance.

Benedict praised Pius at a Mass on the 50th anniversary of his death on October 9.

He reiterated that Pius saved the ''largest possible number of Jews'' by acting in silence to ''avert the worst''.

He told the mass that Pius's action had been recognised after the war by Jewish leaders including Golda Meir.

Benedict said he was ''praying'' that the beatification process would continue but gave no indication of when he would sign a key decree.

Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, took a crucial step towards sainthood last year when a panel of top Catholic prelates voted in favour of recognising Pius's ''heroic virtues''.

This is the key requirement for beatification, but the relevant decree has yet to be signed by Benedict.

The lag has been taken by some observers as indicating the pope believes more reflection on the case is needed.

The Pius question, and a Holocaust museum in Jerusalem where he is accused of remaining silent, was widely considered to have been a hurdle to Benedict's trip to the Holy Land next month, despite denials on both sides.

After vain Catholic calls for the anti-Pius exhibit to be removed, it was eventually decided that Benedict will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial, but not the museum itself.
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« Reply #131 on: May 12, 2009, 07:53:31 am »

                                                                 Pope at Yad Vashem

                                     Benedict says, "Church feels deep compassion for the victims."

The Jerusalem Post
May 11, 20009

But the pontiff's closely-watched speech at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial stopped short of an

apology on behalf of the Catholic Church, producing palpable disappointment among those Israelis who had

expected a historic address from the German-born pope on the first day of his visit here.

"We're talking about the pope, who is also a representative of the Holy See, which has a lot to ask forgiveness from our people for," Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said during an interview on Israel Radio on Tuesday. "And he is also a German, whose country and people have asked forgiveness. But he himself comes and speaks to us like a historian, as an observer, as a man who expresses his opinion about things that should never happen, and he was - what can you do? - a part of them."

"If we let this go, in the end they'll say, 'the Jewish people can manage,'" the Knesset speaker said.

Rivlin added during the interview that "there is one thing which is forbidden to forget, and we must not allow ourselves to forget it, not even in the act of giving up on it in one way or another due to protocol. The Holocaust is not protocol."

After the pope's speech, the Knesset speaker - who was absent from all of the welcoming festivities other than the visit to Yad Vashem - said that "everything that we feared came to fruition."

"I came to the memorial not only to hear historical descriptions or about the established fact of the Holocaust. I came as a Jew, hoping to hear an apology and a request for forgiveness from those who caused our tragedy, and among them, the Germans and the church. But to my sadness, I did not hear any such thing," he said.

"The visit to Yad Vashem does not constitute an expression of regret as such," added Rivlin. "The eyes of Jews across the world, and of the nation in Israel, were directed here, in anticipation of hearing honest communion - personal and determined - regarding the Holocaust of their people. And we heard nothing of the sort."

Benedict had said during Monday's speech that "I have come to stand in silence before the monument erected to honor the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah."

"They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names. These are indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again."

The solemn memorial service, which was held at the Holocaust Memorial's darkened Hall of Remembrance, was seen as the highlight of the pontiff's visit to the Jewish state, especially in light of the recent controversy over the pope's decision to revoke the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.

"I reaffirm - like my predecessors - that the church is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again," he said.

The English-language address by the pontiff, which was peppered with biblical quotations but which never referred to the Nazis and avoided all Holocaust-related issues of contention, was preceded by the pope's rekindling of the eternal flame in the chamber, which has a mosaic floor engraved with the names of 22 of the most infamous Nazi murder sites.

He also laid a wreath over a stone crypt containing the ashes of Holocaust victims.

"As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood," he said.

"I am deeply grateful to God and to you for the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope," he concluded.

The chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is a Holocaust survivor, expressed disappointment at the pope's speech, saying that "there certainly was no apology expressed here."

"Something was missing. There was no mention of the Germans or the Nazis who participated in the butchery, nor a word of regret," Lau said. "If not an apology, then an expression of remorse."

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said that the "certain restraint" in the formulation of the speech was a "missed opportunity."

"I did not expect an apology, but we expected more," he told The Jerusalem Post. "This is certainly no historic landmark."

"I had expected a historic speech from the German pope at the site which is a memorial altar for the victims of Nazi Germany," said Prof. Shevah Weiss, a former Yad Vashem chairman and Holocaust survivor. "And though the speech was moving - it wasn't that."

Others said that too much focus should not be put on the one speech.

"His very presence at Yad Vashem is a statement, particularly against those Holocaust deniers who challenge the history of the Shoah," said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, senior rabbi of Park East Synagogue in New York, who hosted the pope last year and was here for the papal visit.

The august ceremony, which included a brief encounter between the pope and six Holocaust survivors as well as a Righteous Among the Nations, concluded with the pope signing the guest book and the singing of "Hatikva."

"His mercies are not spent," the pope wrote, quoting from the Book of Lamentations.

The pope arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport late Monday morning and was welcomed by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

After the greetings, the pope flew by helicopter to Jerusalem, where he was met by Mayor Nir Barkat and scores of flag-waving Jewish, Christian and Muslim children.

"You will feel at home because you, too, Your Holiness, are a shareholder of this great city," Barkat told the pope, in a brief welcoming ceremony at the city's Mount Scopus tarmac.

Later, at Beit Hanassi, Peres and Benedict planted an olive tree together.

Rebecca Anna Stoil
contributed to this report.
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« Reply #132 on: May 12, 2009, 12:25:54 pm »

Pope comes under criticism in Israel           

May 12, 2009

The speaker of Israel's parliament accused German-born Pope Benedict on Tuesday of showing detachment from Jewish suffering in the Nazi Holocaust, adding to criticism that has marked his Holy Land pilgrimage.

The pontiff, described by one Israeli newspaper columnist as coming across as "restrained, almost cold", prayed at Judaism's Western Wall and visited Islam's Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem holy sites at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Citing Benedict's teenage membership in the Hitler Youth and German military service, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin berated the pope over his address on Monday at Israel's memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

"He came and told us as if he were a historian, someone looking in from the sidelines, about things that should not have happened. And what can you do? He was a part of them," Rivlin told Israel Radio.

At the Yad Vashem ceremony, the pope spoke of the "horrific tragedy of the Shoah", the Hebrew term for the Holocaust, but disappointed some Jewish religious leaders who said he should have apologised as a German and a Christian for the genocide.

In what appeared to be an attempt to rally to the pope's defence, Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said he was certain the pontiff subscribed to the prayer Pope John Paul II placed in the Western Wall nine years ago in which he asked for God's forgiveness for suffering caused to Jews over the centuries.

In the prayer he slotted into a stone crevice of the remnant of the Roman-era Jewish Temple complex, Pope Benedict mentioned in general terms "the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world" and called for peace in the Middle East.

Rivlin said that "with all due respect to the Holy See, we cannot ignore the burden he bears, as a young German who joined the Hitler Youth and as a person who joined Hitler's army, which was an instrument in the extermination".

Pope Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, joined the Hitler Youth when enrolment was compulsory, and was drafted into the German forces, deserting towards the end of the conflict.
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« Reply #133 on: May 12, 2009, 12:26:58 pm »


At the Dome of the Rock, the pope met the Grand Mufti, the Palestinians' senior Muslim cleric, and recalled the common roots of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The Dome stands at the spot where all three great monotheistic religions believe Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son to God, before an angel stayed his hand. King Solomon and his successors built Jewish temples there before the Romans razed the Second Temple in 70 AD and Jews scattered in exile.

In the 7th century, Islamic conquerors built the first Dome on the spot, where Muslims also believe Mohammad ascended to heaven. The area around, including the al-Aqsa mosque and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been a focus of tensions since Israeli forces captured Jerusalem's Old City in 1967.

When Israeli leader Ariel Sharon walked through what is known to Jews as the Temple Mount in 2000, Palestinian anger turned into several years of bloody uprising, or Intifada, against occupation. Sharon went on to become prime minister.

After meeting Israel's chief rabbis, the pope prayed at the site of Jesus' Last Supper before his crucifixion, and Christians believe his resurrection; the focus of the city's importance for them.

The pontiff was to say mass for thousands of worshippers at the Garden of Gethsemane later in the day.

Arriving on Monday after three days in Jordan, Pope Benedict found his efforts to heal differences with Jews and Muslims challenged by both Israeli disappointment and by a fiery anti-Israel address, delivered in his presence by a Palestinian Muslim cleric, which annoyed both the Vatican and Israelis.

(For a graphic on the Pope's trip see

(For more on faith and ethics, see the Reuters religion blog FaithWorld at

(For more on Israel and the Palestinian territories, see our blog AxisMundi Jerusalem at

Douglas Hamilton and
Jeffrey Heller
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« Reply #134 on: May 17, 2009, 10:12:26 am »

                                Modest Successes and Missed Chances in Pope’s Trip

The New York Times
Published: May 16, 2009

— Pope Benedict XVI said that he wanted to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and experience the Holy Land first hand. So photographers waited eagerly by a turgid pool in the Jordan River for the pope to peer from a wooden promontory to a central spot in Christianity, where Christ is believed to have been baptized.

But Benedict declined to get out of the golf cart that brought him there.

Certainly an 82-year-old pope is entitled to remain seated if he likes. Yet the drive-by pilgrimage seemed to sum up his eight-day trip to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank — and indeed his entire papacy so far.

It reflected what critics describe as a lack of understanding, or interest, in the public aspects of his office that has led to a series of public-relations miscues and questions about his skills as a diplomat.

At a news conference, the Vatican spokesman later explained that the pope had seen all he needed to see without getting out of the cart, a statement indicative of a related problem: that the Vatican seems to assume Benedict’s actions and words are self-explanatory, when often they are not. Sometimes the gesture, timing and location count more than the close reading.

This shortcoming was on display at the event that aroused the most criticism during the trip: his speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on Monday. Many Israelis were upset that the pope never uttered the words German or Nazi, did not speak of his own experience as an unwilling conscript into the Hitler Youth and gave the impression of being academic and removed in the face of such horror.

To many, the speech was a missed opportunity for both the headlines and the history books.

“This is the last pope, most certainly, who will have lived through World War II, grown up under the Nazi regime, and probably the last pope from Europe,” said David Gibson, the author of “The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle With the Modern World.” “In many respects I think he could have moved things forward in a remarkable way.”

Asked why the pope seemed tone deaf to the moment, the Vatican explained that he had previously spoken about his own experiences and had denounced the Holocaust in more emotional terms, and that he had no need to repeat himself. The pope’s seeming obliviousness, as well as the Vatican’s puzzled and groping response, echoed previous controversies of this papacy.

In January, Benedict reinstated four schismatic bishops, including one who had repeatedly denied the scope of the Holocaust. The Vatican said then that the pope had been focused on healing a rift in the church and was not aware of the Holocaust denial.

After a speech in 2006 in which he quoted a medieval scholar saying that Islam brought things “evil and inhuman,” he appeared to be taken by surprise by the wave of anger generated in the Islamic world.

Both episodes were followed by a series of official clarifications and apologies.

But whatever the failings in symbolism, his trip was in many ways a success in substance.

His complex itinerary through Jordan and Israel could have gone wrong at every turn, and at every turn the region’s opposing players tried to use his presence to make their own political points: the Palestinians spoke of Israeli oppression in his presence; the new Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urged him to denounce Iran.

Yet Benedict managed to avoid missteps of the kind that previously outraged Muslims and Jews. His trip to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and endorsement of a Palestinian state while visiting the West Bank went a long way toward smoothing relations with the Muslim world.

In fact, the endorsement, delivered before a towering concrete-and-barbed-wire separation barrier, appeared to be one instance in which he effectively used the symbolism that the landscape offered. But that success had the side effect of magnifying the perception of his clumsiness toward Jewish symbols and history.

Perhaps most important, Benedict managed to avoid any major gaffes, a recurring problem in his papacy and no small feat given the sensitivities in the region.

In some ways the task before him, as a shy professorial church insider, was perhaps too great to overcome on one trip. Benedict also suffered from following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, whose trip to the Holy Land in 2000 was the culmination of a beloved papacy. A headline in Friday’s Jerusalem Post read: “After JPII, the Papal Rock Star, Benedict Seemed Cold, Distant.”

The trip’s shortcomings were all the more glaring given the kind of outreach he might have achieved in a land holy to three major religions.

Many Israelis are ignorant about the contemporary Roman Catholic Church. At a news conference in Nazareth on Thursday, a local journalist addressed the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit priest, as “Mister Cardinal.”

But Israelis are taught from grade school about the church’s historic persecution of Jews, and many were disappointed that Benedict did not directly address that theme.

“They were looking for him to at least reflect and express regret about the role of the church and the role of Christians,” Mr. Gibson said. “That is something he has refused to do.”

In a farewell speech at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Friday, Benedict recalled his visit to Auschwitz in 2006 and issued a plea that the Holocaust must “never be forgotten or denied.” Yet once again he did not use the term Nazi or German.

Israeli society — and the fierce Israeli press — is as direct and self-critical as the Vatican is baroque and reluctant to address its own failings in public. After he left, Israeli newspapers were already making light of their criticism of Benedict, whose visit required 80,000 security officers and threw Jerusalem traffic into chaos.

On Friday, the satirical page of the daily Yediot Aharonot had a “quote” from an anonymous Jerusalem resident: “I expected him to apologize. At least for the traffic jams. But nothing. Anti-Semite.”

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
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