Monday, January 18, 2010


ROME (CNN) - Pope Benedict XVI is set to take one step forward in Catholic-Jewish relations Sunday when he becomes the first pope since 1986 to visit the main Jewish synagogue in Rome, Italy. A 500-strong press corps will record Benedict's third visit to a Jewish house of worship, which comes barely four weeks after he revived controversy over Pius XII, whom many Jews accuse of inaction over the Holocaust. Before entering the synagogue, the Pope paid homage to a plaque commemorating the deportation of Italian Jews by the Nazis in Oct 1943.The visit, announced in October, appeared at risk of being cancelled amid howls of protest over the papal decree bestowing the title “venerable” on the Nazi-era pope. Pius's “silence” at a time when hundreds of thousands of Jews were being rounded up across Europe and dispatched to death camps was still hurtful, Riccardo Pacifici, the president of Rome's Jewish community, said as Pope Benedict XVI visited the city's synagogue for the first time. The criticism was one of the bluntest comments made in public by a Jewish leader to a pope. “The silence of Pius XII before the Shoah (Holocaust) still hurts because something should have been done, ... maybe it would not have stopped the death trains, but it would have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity, towards those brothers of ours transported to the ovens of Auschwitz,” he said.

The Vatican had hoped that the synagogue visit would rebuild bridges with the Jewish world, after the German-born Benedict dismayed Jews by rehabilitating a Holocaust-denying British renegade bishop a year ago, and by advancing Pius further along the path to sainthood by recognising his “heroic virtues” last month. Benedict came to the defence of his predecessor during his visit to the synagogue and insists that Pope Pius XII feared that criticising Hitler more strongly would have provoked even more severe persecution of the Jews. The visit to Rome's synagogue is part of what should be an annual Catholic Day of Dialogue With Judaism, but it didn't happen last year. The Jewish community “believes that Benedict's desire to continue dialogue is sincere and the relationship is very important”, however the Jewish leaders have said the only way to settle the issue is for the Vatican to open up its archives relating to Pius's pontificate - a request that was reiterated to Benedict.

Wise men have conviction that the religion of humanity cannot be many. The eternal religion of mankind cannot be divided into extremely opposing factions. At root, eternal religion must be only one. Why have many religions then arisen? The correct answer is that the religion or dharma of man is one when the soul is in a pure condition. When the soul takes on material designation and consequently different place, time and body, due to variety in matter, conditional dharma makes its appearance in different countries and at different times. Conditional dharma takes on different forms and names in different countries. When the jivas reach the unconditioned state, they have only one dharma. Sri Caitanya taught this eternal dharma to the jivas of this world; it is called pure Vaisnava dharma.

Śrīla Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thākura :
“Mahaprabhura Siksa” - Chapter 1 - ‘Dasamula-tattva’
Bhaktivedanta Memorial Library -

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