Thursday, April 21, 2005

Jewish Leaders Criticize Popes Past

Pope Benedict XVI was criticized for a 2000 treatise entitled "Declaration Dominus Iesus" that said non-Catholic religions are "gravely deficient," and Jewish leaders said the statement pushed Pope John Paul II to beatify Pius IX, the 19th century pope who severely restricted the civil and religious rights of Jews. Pope Benedict XVI has also been criticized for membership of the Hitler Youth organization as a teenager in Germany, and for his service in the German Army during World War Two. But biographer John Allen has rejected charges the new Pope was a Nazi, and has said the Ratzinger family was forced to move out of their home as a result of his father's criticism of Hitler.
Pope Benedict XVI has insisted he never took part in combat or fired a shot - adding that his gun was not even loaded - because of a badly infected finger. He was sent to Hungary, where he set up tank traps and saw Jews being herded to death camps. He deserted in April 1944 and spent a few weeks in a prisoner of war camp. He has since said that although he was opposed to the Nazi regime, any open resistance would have been futile - comments echoed this weekend by his elder brother Georg, a retired priest ordained along with the Pope in 1951. “Resistance was truly impossible,” Georg Ratzinger said. “Before we were conscripted, one of our teachers said we should fight and become heroic Nazis and another told us not to worry as only one soldier in a thousand was killed. But neither of us ever used a rifle against the enemy.”

At least one Jewish group has dismissed concerns about the new Pope's past as a member of the Hitler Youth. Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Michael Lipshutz said Joseph Ratzinger's childhood should not be a focus. "He was a mere boy at the time, let's look at what he has done in his adult life, not his childhood," Mr Lipshutz said this morning.