Pope Benedict to visit with Jewish leaders in New York City and D.C.

Pope Benedict to visit with Jewish leaders in New York City and D.C.

.- During his April visit to the United States Pope Benedict XVI will visit a New York synagogue led by a rabbi who survived the Holocaust, CBS News reports.

Benedict XVI’s visit will be his second visit to a synagogue since becoming Pope.

The Holy Father will make a 20 minute stop on April 18 at East Park Synagogue, a modern Orthodox congregation founded in 1888. 

"By this personal and informal visit, which is not part of his official program, His Holiness wishes to express his good will toward the local Jewish community as they prepare for Passover," said Monsignor David Malloy, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Passover begins at sundown on April 19.

According to CBS News, the East Park Synagogue is led by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, 78, who lived under Nazi occupation in Budapest.  He emigrated to the United States in 1947, and has led the synagogue since 1962.  Rabbi Shneier, an advocate of religious freedom worldwide, founded the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an organization which promotes interfaith tolerance.  He is also a recipient of the 2001 U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal for service to the nation.

The 80-year-old Pope Benedict is a native of Germany whose father was an anti-Nazi.  As a teenager, the Pope was enrolled in the Hitler Youth against his will.  He was drafted into the German army in the final months of World War II, and according to his memoirs, he deserted in the war’s last days.

Pope Benedict has been engaged in outreach to Jews, following the example of his predecessor Pope John Paul II.  Some tensions resulted after the Pope’s revival of the Latin rite because the old rite included Good Friday prayers with passages demeaning towards Jews. 

The Pope revised the prayer to address Jewish concerns, though some Jewish leaders remained unsatisfied with the changes.

The East Park Synagogue is located near the United Nations, which the Pope will address on the morning of April 18.

The Pope has also scheduled a meeting in Washington with Jewish leaders and representatives of other faiths on April 17.

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