German Jews praise Pope Benedict but warn on Pius XII and Holocaust

September 22, 2011

(Pope Benedict XVI poses for a picture after a meeting with representatives of the Jewish congregation in a room at the German Bundestag lower house of parliament in Berlin, September 22, 2011/Wolfgang Radtke)

Germany’s small Jewish community praised Pope Benedict on Thursday for stressing the common roots of Christianity and Judaism but warned him it would be hurt if he honors wartime Pope Pius XII, who it said was silent during the Holocaust. Dieter Graumann, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, also said Jews were hurt by his support for an ultra-traditionalist Catholic group they consider bigoted against Jews, Muslims, gays, women and Protestants.

The close friendship that has developed between Christians and Jews “must put up with others saying things that hurt,” he told Reuters after he and other Jewish leaders met the pope and Catholic prelates for about 25 minutes.

“A possible beatification of Pius XII would hurt us,” said Graumann, referring to efforts to put the late pope on the path to sainthood. “For us he is the pope who kept his silence too coldly and loudly during the Holocaust.”

Critics accuse Pius of not speaking up to defend Jews against the Nazis, but his defenders — including Benedict — say he did the best he could to help them. Graumann said the pope did not react to his objection to beatifying Pius.

Despite these differences, the Jewish leader stressed that the closed-door meeting was friendly and moving for him. “This is an impulse for new closeness, for a deeper and even better relationship,” he said. Pope Benedict was in Berlin on the first day of his third and most difficult papal visit to his homeland. He met the Jews in the Reichstag building after addressing parliament there.

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