00 5/16/2009 2:57 PM

One gets an idea of the intimate passion aroused in Jews today by the Holocaust by the way Haaretz, Israel's most liberal (and therefore most secular) newspaper reported the Pope's departure speech. What he said about the Holocaust is, for them, the centerpiece of everything that happened yesterday. And even if they dredge up the backlash to his Yad Vashem address on Monday, they have no reproaches for his words this time.

Pope says Jews were
'brutally exterminated' in Holocaust

May 15, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI voiced sorrow at the 'extermination' of Jews in the Holocaust during a farewell ceremony Friday at Ben Gurion Airport marking the end of five-day visit to Israel.

The Pope spoke of a visit years ago to a Nazi death camp, "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."

Benedict also referred to the subject during an address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. In the speech, he eloquently spoke of the suffering of Holocaust victims but did not express remorse for the church's historic persecution of Jews, nor for what some believe to have been the church's passivity during the genocide or his own time as a member of the Hitler Youth [I detest this persistent way of mentioning this fact so baldly, implying that he participated willingly and was active in it! And this is deliberate on the aprt of those who do it, trusting that the average reader will infer exactly what they mean to imply.]

He later drew fire over the perceived omissions, which led officials at the Yad Vashem memorial to take the exceptional step of openly criticizing the speech. [These are the same officials who have made an intractable verdict about Pius XII's 'guilt' in the Holocaust.]

At the airport on Friday, the Pope added: "That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love."

President Shimon Peres was at the site to see Benedict off. He thanked the Pope for his visit to the Holy Land, and applauded his remarks at Yad Vashem, which he said represented a welcome attack on Holocaust denial around the world.

On the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Pope said that during his visit to the holy land he had "witnessed the great efforts that both governments are making to securing their people's well being."

In the ceremony, also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Pope reiterated his support for the Palestinian cause, saying that the "Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign state."

The Pontiff expressed hopes that "the two-state solution will become a reality not a dream," and called for the end of the regional conflict.

"No more bloodshed, no more fighting, no more terrorism, no more war," he emotionally cried just before boarding the Rome-bound plane.

The ff portion is what comes from the AP story, also used amply by the New York Times in its report:

Earlier Friday, Pope Benedict XVI capped his Middle East visit by making a pilgrimage to a church revered as the site of Jesus's crucifixion and assuring his followers in the Holy Land that peace was still possible.

A traditional escort of men in black robes and red fezzes accompanied the Pontiff as he solemnly walked into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, rhythmically banging staffs on the ground to announce his approach.

Benedict knelt down and kissed the rectangular stone on which Jesus's body is believed to have been placed after the crucifixion. Then he entered the structure inside the church marking the site of Jesus' tomb and knelt inside alone for several minutes, hands clasped, as priests chanted nearby.

In a speech afterward, he told those gathered in the church not to lose hope - a central theme during a visit in which he addressed the Holocaust, Israeli-Palestinian politics and the shrinking number of Christians in the region.

"The Gospel reassures us that God can make all things new, that history need not be repeated, that memories can be healed, that the bitter fruits of recrimination and hostility can be overcome, and that a future of justice, peace, prosperity and cooperation can arise for every man and woman, for the whole human family, and in a special way for the people who dwell in this land so dear to the heart of the Savior," he said.

"With those words of encouragement," he said, "I conclude my pilgrimage to the holy places of our redemption and rebirth in Christ."

Thousands of soldiers and policemen were deployed Friday around Jerusalem's Old City for the pope's visit to the ancient church, which tradition holds marks the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

"On the last day of his visit the pope is coming to the most important place for us," said Father Bernt, a Catholic priest at the church. "This is the center of Christianity, so it's very special."

The Pope is leaving the Holy Land having fulfilled his mission of reaching out to Jews and Muslims, but some are giving his five-day trip only mixed reviews.

During his visit, he led 50,000 worshippers in a jubilant Mass outside of Nazareth, in an effort to rally his dwindling flock. He removed his shoes to enter Islam's third-holiest shrine, and he followed Jewish custom by placing a note bearing a prayer for peace in the cracks of the Western Wall.

I studiously avoided the LA Times reoorting on the papal pilgrimage because of the predigested and predictably ultra-liberal nature of their situationer story on the eve of the Pope's visit. But I find this wrap-up story after the Pope left worth posting for the conlusion it draws as the headline suggests, at least on the 'political' aspect of the Pope's trip.

Pope Benedict's farewell remarks
please both Israelis, Palestinians

By Richard Boudreaux

May 16, 2009

Reporting from Jerusalem -- Pope Benedict XVI ended a politically charged visit to Israel and the West Bank on Friday with new condemnations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and his strongest appeal yet for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Benedict's farewell remarks from the tarmac at Tel Aviv's airport pleased both Israelis and Palestinians, many of whom had initially viewed him with skepticism. Some said later they felt vindication from portions of his carefully worded statements and a measure of respect for his moral authority.

Yet few outsiders who bring a message of peace to the Middle East manage to move its stubborn conflicts toward resolution, and no one expects Benedict to even come close.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly told the pope that he resists the idea of an independent Palestine, even though most Western leaders support it.

And some young Palestinians on hand for a papal Mass in the West Bank town of Bethlehem this week scoffed at the 82-year-old Roman Catholic leader's warning to "resist any temptation . . . to resort to acts of violence and terrorism."

"Israeli occupation is the terrorism," said Samir Assad, 23. "Violent resistance will end when the occupation ends."

Further limiting the pope's influence was a divergence of expectations: Israelis were seeking the Vatican's renewed commitment to fight anti-Semitism. They cared less about what mattered to Palestinians: getting the pppe to highlight their suffering under occupation and their quest for a state of their own.

Still, Benedict said he found "deep interest in peace" among Israeli and Palestinian leaders, despite their "great differences."

"Even if this was less visible, it needs to be encouraged," he told journalists on the flight back to Rome, the Associated Press reported.

His final words of encouragement were even-handed and emotionally powerful. [I find this observation from a secular ultra-liberal outlet powerful in itself, ebcause it comes from such an unlikely source.]

"Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed. No more fighting. No more terrorism. No more war!" he said in his farewell speech, standing with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

"Let it be universally recognized that the state of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally recognized borders. Let it likewise be acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland."

Marwan Toubasi, an official of the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, said Benedict's visit "achieved everything we were hoping to get from it."

Palestinians were delighted by his words and the potent symbolism of his visit Wednesday to a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem just yards from Israel's separation barrier, which seals off much of the West Bank and is loathed by Palestinians.

The Pope singled it out again Friday, calling it "one of the saddest sights" of his visit.

Israeli officials played down the Pope's influence, even as they conceded that his Palestinian Authority hosts in Bethlehem had scored a propaganda victory.

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Israel arranged no papal events to highlight the victims of Palestinian attacks because the Vatican had described Benedict's trip in advance as a nonpolitical pilgrimage. As a result, Palmor said, "he expressed solidarity only with people on one side of the wall."

"This had some impact, but we shouldn't exaggerate it," he added. "He's not the spiritual leader of either Jews or Muslims. He'll always be welcomed . . . but he's not really the one who's expected to show the way forward."

[Palmor appears to have forgotten completely that on Monday, President Peres arranged for the family of an Israeli soldier in Hamas captivity to meet the Pope and hand him a letter appealing to the Palestinian authorities on his behalf. And rhe reporter in Jerusalem should have pointed it out in this story, since it was a most unusual event.]]

Benedict undoubtedly has more sway over Catholics' attitudes toward Jews, and Israelis recognized that. His speech Monday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial stirred far more interest and controversy in Israel than anything he said about the Palestinians.

Some Israeli officials and commentators criticized the speech as impersonal and lacking passion. They faulted Benedict for not condemning Christian anti-Semitism as a contributing factor in the slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II or acknowledging his own witness of Nazi terror as a conscript in the Hitler Youth and German army.

In apparent response, the Pope returned to the subject in his farewell remarks. He said his meeting with Holocaust survivors at Yad Vashem had been "one of the most solemn moments" of the visit.

"Those deeply moving encounters," the Pope said, "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."

[How consistent the Pope is! He speaks of his experience only in terms of his vist to Auschwitz, ever focused on what the vicitms underrwent, not what he did as a schoolboy whose military superiors made him and his fellow conscripts continue doing schoolwork even as they did auxiliary tasks for the military. I believe young Joseph Ratzinger's class was assigned to an anti-aircraft unit, where he served as a communications (radio) auxiliary.

So why should he bring up his absolutely insignificant part which had nothing to do with the Holocaust - in a speech about the Holocaust, whether it's held at Yad Vashem or Auschwitz or anywhere else? It's calling attention to himself, his personal life, unncessarily and inappropriately.

Nor should any discourse about the Holocaust be any occasion for him to explain exactly what he did during the war, since he already wrote about that in his memoir of the first 50 years of his life.]

Several of his Israeli critics welcomed the new statement.

"These words are a bridge of friendship, of understanding, of peace and love between nations, religions and races," Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a child survivor of the Holocaust and chairman of Yad Vashem, told Reuters Television.

[Lau was one of those who was msot harsh about the Pope's address at Yad Vashem, which was a rather unseemly response from someone who had just played host to the Pope. Especially since he made his disparaging remarks as soon as the Pope had left Yad Vashem!

Would he have done that if it was any other visiting head of state? No, he would have waited until the guest had left the country to say anything negative.

But people like Lau tend to forge that the Pope is also a head of state, and obviously in their eyes, the head of the Roman Catholic Church can be disparaged any time even if he is also a head of state.]

Special correspondent Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/18/2009 6:09 PM]