Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Which reminds me, the Pope will be going to a synagogue soon

Cologne, Jul. 05 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) will visit a synagogue in Cologne when he travels to the German city for World Youth Day in August.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne confirmed that the Pope has accepted an invitation from a local Jewish community, and will attend a service at which the Psalms will be read in Hebrew. The exact date for the Pope's visit has not been announced, but Pope Benedict will be in Germany from August 18 to 21. The full schedule for the papal trip will be unveiled by both the Vatican and the World Youth Day organizers in Germany, in mid-July.

Answering reporters' questions about the Pope's plans, Cardinal Meisner said that the visit to the Jewish community will be a valuable symbolic reminder that Jews and Christians are brothers and sisters, and that the hatred that marked the Holocaust "must not be repeated."

Cardinal Meisner, speaking to the press on July 5, said that the Pope's trip must be understood as a visit to Cologne, to meet with the Catholic youth of the world, rather than a state visit to Germany. However, he acknowledged, since he is the first German Pontiff in over 500 years, the visit by Benedict XVI will be a major event for all of Germany. Moreover, the cardinal continued, the World Youth Day celebrations in a German city, combined with the visit by a German Pope, will have substantial symbolic impact. He reminded the media that in 1997, when he announced that Cologne would host the 2005 World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II (bio - news) had said that it was appropriate to have a German city host the event "at the start of the 21st century," after "the catastrophe of World War II." The event should mark "a vast positive movement" in the heart of Europe, he said. Cardinal Meisner also recalled the words of a German political leader who suggested that the election of Pope Benedict XVI was a "final absolution" for Germany, indicating that the ravages of the war and the Holocaust are over.

Pope John Paul II will also be remembered powerfully during the events in Cologne, the cardinal continued. He recalled that after visiting the ailing Pontiff in Gemelli Hospital on March 2, he had voiced the hope that John Paul II would be able to come to Cologne, even if he was unable to speak, because "his mere presence would say more than words." Cardinal Meisner recalled that the Pope had replied, "I will come." The cardinal said he now has no doubt that the deceased Pope will be with the World Youth Day participants in spirit. So, he concluded, there will be two Popes attending the events: "one above and one here below."

Cardinal Meisner said that interest in the World Youth Day celebration is now beginning to peak, with thousands of people registering to attend. At least 80,000 German families have prepared to welcome visitors for the celebration, he said. And while organizers had originally hoped for 4,000 priests and 200 bishops to participate, they are now expecting 7,000 priests and 400 bishops.

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