New York, NY, February 11, 2013 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed great appreciation and wishes of good health for Pope Benedict XVI following his stunning announcement that he will retire on February 28 – the first pope to retire in office in 600 years.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who had five audiences with the pope during his nearly eight years as pontiff, issued the following statement:
Benedict XVI has profoundly bolstered the positive trajectory of Catholic-Jewish relations launched by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked closely with John Paul during his 26 year papacy, developing a historic new relationship between Catholic and Jews as “loving brothers and sisters” after centuries of tragedy.
In his tenure as pope, Benedict pledged that he would always stand with the Jewish people against anti-Semitism. He strongly condemned Holocaust denial. He made it a point early in his papacy to visit Israel, going to Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, thus cementing the historic act of his predecessor for future generations and strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Vatican. He became the first pope to visit a synagogue in the United States. And he also visited the synagogue in Rome, institutionalizing these visits.
Pope Benedict XVI reconfirmed the official Catholic position that God’s covenant with the Jewish people at Sinai endures and is irrevocable. He said that the Catholic Church should not try and convert Jews.
There were bumps in the road during this papacy – the rewriting of the old Good Friday prayer for Jews making it more problematic for Jews, starting negotiations with the anti-Semitic group the Society of St. Pius X, and moving World War II Pope Pius XII one step closer to sainthood while the Secret Vatican Archives are still under wraps. But he listened to our concerns and tried to address them, which shows how close our two communities have become in the last half century, and how much more work we need to do together to help repair a broken world.
In his trilogy on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict re-interpreted problematic passages in the Gospels of Matthew and John that dismisses the negative images and false charges against the Jewish people which has led to millennia of persecution and death against Jews.
He importantly declared the validity of the Jewish reading of the Hebrew Bible, or Tanach.