Pope Benedict XVI visits Rome's Synagogue
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Israel’s Vice PM Silvan Shalom is set to welcome the Pope to Rome's Great Synagogue. The possible beatification of Pope Pius XII, who many argue did not do enough to save Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, has strained relations between the two faiths.
AFP - Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom was to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Rome's Great Synagogue on Sunday, the first visit by a pontiff to the site in 24 years.
"I will welcome (the Pope) today when he comes to the Great Synagogue," Shalom told Israeli public radio by telephone from Rome.
"Benedict XVI was in Israel less than a year ago and visited Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem) and his visit today is an historic event that draws great emotion," he added.
The last papal visit to the site was by Pope John Paul II in 1986.
"It is a religious event, not a political one, and it should symbolise the reconciliation between Jews and Catholics," Shalom said.
The Vatican's relations with Jews have been strained in recent years as it has advanced the possible beatification of Pope Pius XII, who many historians argue did not do enough to save Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.
But the Catholic Church has long argued that Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, saved many Jews who were hidden away in religious institutions, and that his silence was aimed at protecting them.
In December, Benedict declared Pius "venerable" in move that advances him one step closer to sainthood, drawing fire from international Jewish groups.
Shalom said he would ask the pope to "delay" the process of beatification during the visit.
Shalom's visit to Rome is also aimed at paving the way for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's trip to Israel next month.