It was meant to be a “pilgrimage of peace.”
But so far, the Pope’s visit to Israel seems only to have exacerbated the tensions between the Jewish community and the Catholic Church. During an emotional ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Benedict the 16th laid a wreath over the ashes of some of the victims of the Nazi death camps. He spoke of the “horrific tragedy of the Shoah” and met a group of survivors. “It was, let us say, a very respectful ceremony and it is very good that the Pope has, let us say, with his German origin, was not afraid to come here, and to pay the respects for what has been done before,” said one survivor. But Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said the Pontiff did not go far enough and should have been more explicit in his condemnation: “John Paul II spoke about millions of Jews, were ‘murdered’ in the Holocaust. He didn’t use the word ‘murdered’ he used the word ‘killed’. It’s not the same. He didn’t say who killed them. John Paul II spoke about the ‘Nazis’. In this speech the word ‘Nazis’ doesn’t exist.” Last night, a Palestinian Muslim cleric gave a fiery anti-Israeli speech in the Pope’s presence further annoying both the Vatican and Israelis. Hoping to put the controversy behind him, today the Pontiff is set to meet leading Muslim and Jewish clerics at some of the most holy sites in Jerusalem.