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The Last Pope Shaped by the Shoah
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI will symbolically bring to an end a remarkable period in Catholic-Jewish relations.
Written by Dr. Adam Gregerman (February 15, 2013)
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI will symbolically bring to an end a remarkable period in Catholic-Jewish relations. Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, were personally involved in two 20th-century events that had a profound effect on this relationship — the Shoah and the Second Vatican Council. It is nearly certain that the next pope will have little if any personal connection to these events, and probably a different relationship to Jews and Judaism.
Certainly, the popes’ experiences during the Shoah differed. John Paul, who grew up in Poland, had Jewish friends who were murdered by the Nazis. Benedict, as a teenager in Bavaria, joined the Hitler Youth. He expressed a sense of the burden he carried when he mentioned his unease at visiting Auschwitz as “a Pope from Germany.” Both spoke of a personal connection to the horrors of the Shoah, meeting with survivors and traveling to death camps.
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Adam Gregerman, Ph.D., is the Assistant Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph's University.