Reactions from Jewish leaders to the Pope’s visit to the synagogue

Source: FSSPX News


The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, described Benedict XVI’s visit to the synagogue of Cologne on August 19, as an “historic” event. According to him, “the pope’s words will go down in history and leave a lasting impression”. He also told journalists gathered at the Press Centre for the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, that the Jewish people “would gain” from this extraordinary gathering, expressing his astonishment at the joy and vitality of the young people. He added that, on the day he returned from deportation in 1945, if someone had told him that one day he would be with the pope in a synagogue, he would never have believed it.

 One of the Co-presidents of the Jewish Community of Cologne, Abraham Lehrer, avowed that he would remember two essential aspects of the pope’s talk: his invitation to dialogue and call for vigilance in the face of anti-semitism.

 Asked about the apparent tensions last July between the Holy See and Israel, the two Jewish representatives were optimistic. Abraham Lehrer noted that the Israeli ambassador to Germany would never have come to the synagogue on August 19, if negotiations were not in progress. As for Paul Spiegel, he felt that it was sensible “not to refer to these tensions in front of the pope” lest the joy of this visit be marred. According to him, mutual relations would from now on be “on track”.

At the end of last July, a member of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affaires had criticized the Holy See over its permanent silence on attacks aimed at Jews in the Holy Land. These criticisms provoked a lively reaction on the part of the Vatican, whose spokesman refuted all the accusations. Israel seized the opportunity to report the signing of a juridical-financial accord between the two States.

 Speaking to journalists on August 19, the director of the Press Office of the Holy See explained that diplomatic relations should not be confused with religious relations, saying that the incident had been “cleared up”. Joaquin Navarro-Valls also confirmed that the decision to visit the synagogue in Cologne was the personal wish of Benedict XVI. The Vatican spokesman then compared this image to those of John Paul II in the synagogue in Rome in 1986, and then at the Wailing Wall in 2000, adding that similar gestures would be made again in the future.