Pope's Speech On Holocaust Receives Lukewarm Response

May 12, 2009

Author: Richard Boudreaux

Source: The Los Angeles Times


Pope Benedict XVI, trying to quell Jewish anger over a Holocaust-denying bishop, bowed in silence Monday at Israel's memorial to Jews exterminated during World War II and declared that their suffering must "never be denied, belittled or forgotten."

"They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names," the Roman Catholic leader said in a quivering voice before clasping the hands of six Holocaust survivors at a haunting ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance. "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.

"As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts," he added.

Jewish leaders gave the speech a tepid response, calling it a welcome affirmation of historical memory that nonetheless avoided questions of responsibility for the Holocaust or reflections on the pope's own German origin and his involuntary service in the Hitler Youth.

Some faulted him for not delving explicitly into the issue that has strained the Vatican's ties with Jews: his decision to lift the excommunication of an English bishop, Richard Williamson, who denies the scope of the Nazi slaughter of 6 million European Jews.