Heading into Pope Benedict XVI’s much-anticipated Jan. 17 visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, one towering question loomed. What impact would the recent move towards sainthood for Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust has long fueled controversy, have on the broader Jewish-Catholic relationship?
In the wake of the visit on Sunday, two answers seem equally clear:
- One, fraternal relations between Jews and Catholic will survive the latest round of tensions over Pius XII, with the enthusiastic welcome given to Benedict XVI as proof of the point.
- Two, those tensions also aren’t about to disappear.
This was only the second papal trip to the Rome synagogue, after John Paul II’s groundbreaking visit in April 1986. Benedict was greeted warmly, including an emotional reunion with the former Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaf, who hosted John Paul twenty-four years ago.