The Pope has left Israel at the end of his Middle East tour with a robust message that the Holocaust would never be forgotten nor denied.
In a farewell address at Tel Aviv airport, he spoke of Hitler’s attempt to wipe out European Jews in much stronger terms than he had used earlier in the week. Then, critics said he had been too restrained. This time he spoke of “brutal extermination.” The Pontiff said: “Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews —mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends — were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred. That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten nor denied”. Israelis listened closely to the words of the German-born pontiff at the Yad Vashem memorial to the 6 million who perished. His trip came against a background of fury that he had reversed the ex-communication of a Catholic bishop who denied the extent of the holocaust. As well as meeting the Israeli prime minister, the pope also had talks with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. He described the wall built by the Israelis separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem as one of the saddest sights of his visit. And he re-iterated his desire for a Palestinian state.