.- Pope Benedict met with over a dozen representatives of Germany’s Jewish community in Berlin on Sept. 22. He urged the growth of mutual understanding and condemned the Nazis’ “reign of terror,” “racist myth” and rejection of God.
“The Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people,” he said at the meeting, which was held in the Reichstag Building.
He encouraged Christians to become “increasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism,” since for Christians, there “can be no rupture in salvation history. Salvation comes from the Jews.”
Jesus’ conflict with the Judaism of his time cannot be “superficially interpreted” as a breach with the Old Covenant, the Pope explained. The Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Mosaic Law, but “reveals 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.”
Jewish-Christian dialogue should “strengthen our common hope in God in the midst of an increasingly secularized society,” he added.
“Without this hope, society loses its humanity.”
The Jewish delegation at the meeting was led by the President of the Jewish Community, Dr. Dieter Graumann. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the German Bishops’ Conference president, introduced the meeting.
Pope Benedict said that further growth is needed in “a loving relationship of mutual understanding between Israel and the Church.” But Catholic-Jewish exchanges in Germany have borne “promising fruits” and have forged “enduring relations of trust.”
He expressed his appreciation for the “deepening dialogue” of the Catholic Church with Judaism. He cited the Second Vatican Council declaration on relations with the Jews, “Nostrae Aetate,” as an “irrevocable commitment” to the path of “dialogue, fraternity and friendship.”
The Catholic Church in Germany is conscious of its “particular responsibility” on this issue.
The Holocaust was planned and organized from the Reichstag, he noted.
“The 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 ‘almighty’ Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men,” Pope Benedict said.
“Refusal 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.”
Since the war, Catholics and Jews have organized a “week of fraternity” as well as several discussion forums. The Pope noted the March 2006 “historic meeting” for Jewish-Christian dialogue, in which Cardinal Walter Kasper participated.
“That meeting has continued to bear rich fruit right up to the present time,” he said.
Pope Benedict is in Germany for a four-day state visit ending on Sept. 25.