Gathered with members of Germany’s Jewish community, Pope Benedict today encouraged more “trustful dialogue” between Jews and Christians.
"We must come to know one another much more and much better," the pontiff said. “This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect for one another.”
Progress had been made, he said, but "much more remains to be done."
His was only the second visit by a Pope to a synagogue. Pope John Paul II made the first papal visit to a synagogue in Rome in 1986. He said it was his deep desire, since his election to the papacy, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and representatives of Judaism in Germany.
The visit began with Hebrew prayers in front of the synagogue's Holocaust memorial. During his address, punctuated often with applause, the Pope stated his commitment to continue in the path of Pope John Paul and work toward improved relations between Catholics and Jews.
The Pope also warned of rising anti-Semitism and called for more vigilance.
"Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," he told representatives from Germany's oldest Jewish community, which dates back to the fourth century.
“The Catholic Church is committed – I reaffirm this again today – to tolerance, respect, friendship and peace between all peoples, cultures and religions.”
He spoke about the history of the Jewish people in Germany, referring to the 20th century as “the darkest period of German and European history, [when] an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.
“The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently contempt was shown for the sacredness of human life.
He pointed out that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, and the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, “which opened up new prospects for Jewish-Christian relations in terms of dialogue and solidarity.”
The Church is conscious of her duty to transmit this teaching about the dignity of all people to the younger generations that did not witness the terrible events that took place before and during the Second World War, the Pope said.
At the end of the visit, the Pope received an ornate shofar (a ram's horn) as a gift from the congregation. He also met with about a dozen volunteer workers from the synagogue congregation who are involved in the integration of Jewish immigrants to Germany from Eastern Europe.
To read the complete speech go to: