In the most symbolic moment of his return home to Germany, Pope Benedict has made an historic visit to a synagogue in Cologne. There was a warm welcome for the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who, like other Germans of his age had been forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teenager.
He condemned the Holocaust as an “unspeakable and previously unimaginable crime”. He also warned about new threats of racism and anti-Semitism today, saying it is vitally important to warn young people of the dangers.
“Sadly we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility towards foreigners,” said Benedict, who is only the second Pope known to have visited a synagogue.
“How can we fail to see in this a reason for concern and vigilance?”
There was only one sensitive moment, when a German Jewish leader urged Benedict to open up all the Vatican’s archives dealing with the wartime period.
Jewish groups claim the then Pope, Pius XII
, turned a blind eye to the slaughter of the Jews. The Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to save them.
To conclude the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day festivities in Cologne, Benedict met representatives of Germany’s Protestant Churches and Muslim leaders.