Monday, May 11, 2009

Surveying the reactions to Pope Benedict XVI's address at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial

Haaretz reports that The speech by Pope Benedict XVI Monday at Yad Vashem drew criticism from staff members of the Holocaust memorial, who described it as disappointing and lukewarm.:
The chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Avner Shalev, said he expected the pope, "who is a human being, too," to draw on his personal experience to issue a stronger condemnation of Nazis and Germans, who were not directly mentioned in the speech.


The chairman of Yad Vashem, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a Holocaust survivor, complained of the pope's usage of the word "millions" instead of the more specific "6 million" when speaking of the Holocaust's Jewish victims, as well as over his use of the word "killed" rather than "murdered."

"There's a dramatic difference between killed and murdered, especially when a speech has gone through so many hands," Lau said.

Lau also said that the speech "didn't have a single word of condolence, compassion or sharing the pain of the Jewish people as such. There was a lot about the pain of humanity, cosmopolitan words," Lau said. Lau, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and a former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, also described the speech as "beautiful and well scripted and very Biblical," however.

Not every Holocaust survivor disapproved, however. According to YNet News, the head of the Consortium of Holocaust Survivors' Organizations in Israel said that the criticism directed at the pontiff was exaggerated:

"(The pope) is not the president of a Zionist organization, so why should we have any complaints towards him?" Noah Frug said Monday night.

"He came here to bring the Church and Judaism closer together, and we should consider his visit positive and important," Frug said.

Father Caesar Atuire, the delegate administrator of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ministry of pilgrimage), deemed the Pope's visit a "courageous move". From a Zenit interview:
"The Catholic Church rejects all that is violence," he said, "and I think that, in this moment in which the Pope is visiting this country, it is appropriate to say that all of us have the mission that the Holy Father presented in his discourse: to work so that these tragedies do not happen again in the history of humanity."

Furthermore, Father Atuire continued, "the Pope is German, the nation to which belonged the Nazis who organized the Holocaust."

His national origin, the priest suggested, gives even greater weight to his message and his pilgrimage to the holy places.

His words are particularly eloquent when he says, "we do not want these things to be repeated, and faced with the horror of what happened, we have to learn to do everything we can so that this world can be a better world," Father Atuire proposed.


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