The Pope has announced a trip to Israel in May, a controversial decision after his recent rehabilitation of a bishop who denies the Holocaust. Benedict will also visit Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, but it is his stop in Israel which has sparked most debate. It comes soon after the Pope lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, who insists no more than 300,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis, and who denies there were gas chambers in the camps.
Benedict will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. The museum features pictures of Pius XII, who was Pope during the Second World War and who is accused by some Jews of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. “He was a kind of a product of his generation,” said Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev. “He was forced, as far as I know, to go to the Hitler Jugend, but afterwards he had nothing to do with it. But, still, the memories and the facts are there.” It is not only Jews who have been offended by some of Benedict’s actions. In 2006 the Vatican’s relations with the Muslim world were strained when he linked Islam with violence. He later expressed regret for any offence he may have caused.