.- Pope Benedict met with over a dozen representatives of Germanyâs Jewish community in Berlin on Sept. 22. He urged the growth of mutual understanding and condemned the Nazisâ âreign of terror,â âracist mythâ and rejection of God.
âThe Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people,â he said at the meeting, which was held in the Reichstag Building.
He encouraged Christians to become âincreasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism,â since for Christians, there âcan be no rupture in salvation history. Salvation comes from the Jews.â
Jesusâ conflict with the Judaism of his time cannot be âsuperficially interpretedâ as a breach with the Old Covenant, the Pope explained. The Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Mosaic Law, but âreveals its hidden possibilities and allows more radical demands to emerge. It points us towards the deepest source of human action, the heart, where choices are made between what is pure and what is impure, where faith, hope and love blossom forth.â
Jewish-Christian dialogue should âstrengthen our common hope in God in the midst of an increasingly secularized society,â he added.
âWithout this hope, society loses its humanity.â
The Jewish delegation at the meeting was led by the President of the Jewish Community, Dr. Dieter Graumann. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the German Bishopsâ Conference president, introduced the meeting.
Pope Benedict said that further growth is needed in âa loving relationship of mutual understanding between Israel and the Church.â But Catholic-Jewish exchanges in Germany have borne âpromising fruitsâ and have forged âenduring relations of trust.â
He expressed his appreciation for the âdeepening dialogueâ of the Catholic Church with Judaism. He cited the Second Vatican Council declaration on relations with the Jews, âNostrae Aetate,â as an âirrevocable commitmentâ to the path of âdialogue, fraternity and friendship.â
The Catholic Church in Germany is conscious of its âparticular responsibilityâ on this issue.
The Holocaust was planned and organized from the Reichstag, he noted.
âThe Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in him. The supposedly âalmightyâ Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men,â Pope Benedict said.
âRefusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed.â
Since the war, Catholics and Jews have organized a âweek of fraternityâ as well as several discussion forums. The Pope noted the March 2006 âhistoric meetingâ for Jewish-Christian dialogue, in which Cardinal Walter Kasper participated.
âThat meeting has continued to bear rich fruit right up to the present time,â he said.
Pope Benedict is in Germany for a four-day state visit ending on Sept. 25.