Benedict acknowledges progress, challenges in Catholic-Jewish relations
Pope also meets with Catholic seminarians, German Protestants
Correspondent's Notebook #2:
Benedict in the synagogue; Assessing Benedict top date; The Magi pilgrims; On the papal plane; Some snags in logistics
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Young people find pope disarming, intelligent, interested in them
Pope visits synagogue, warns of new anti-Semitism
Pope Laments Increase in Anti-Semitism
Pilgrims Come Far, Wide to See, Hear Pope
Spirituality, Commerce Meet in Pope Trip
Report #2:By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Benedict acknowledges progress, challenges in Catholic-Jewish relations
Pope also meets with Catholic seminarians, German Protestants
Visiting a German synagogue where more than half the congregation perished in Nazi death camps during World War II, Pope Benedict XVI today issued a strong denunciation of anti-Semitism, and a stark acknowledgment of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Cologne is home to the oldest Jewish community north of the Alps, and numbered some 20,000 at the time of the Second World War. According to synagogue officials, more than 11,000 perished during the war.
The pope called the Shoah, the preferred Hebrew term for the genocide of Jews by the Nazis, "an unspeakable and previously unimaginable crime."
Known as one of the premier Catholic theologians of his generation, Benedict also reflected on the Christian understanding of Judaism, quoting St. Paul to the effect that "the gifts and call of God are irrevocable" -- language generally understood to mean that the Jewish covenant with God, made before the birth of Christ and long believed by many Christians to have been superseded, is still valid.
Before Benedict spoke, the cantor of the Cologne synagogue, Adam Adler, sang a reading from Genesis. When he finished, another member of the congregation blew the shofar, or ram's horn, a traditional way of calling people to worship.
The hour-long encounter opened with a brief visit by Benedict XVI to a Holocaust memorial in an outer part of the synagogue. As he walked into the main worship area, the congregation sang Shalom alechem, or "peace be with you." Later, as Benedict exchanged gifts and greetings with members of the congregation, a small group played traditional Yiddish Klezmer music.
In a final touch of affection, as the pope was preparing to pull away in his car, a man from the congregation wearing a traditional Jewish yarmulke and tallit sprinted towards the pope's window and planted a kiss on the glass.
Despite these gestures of brotherhood, the visit also offered small reminders of points that have sometimes divided Catholics and Jews.
The pope, for example, pressed Jews and Christians to be frank with one another not just about what they share, but also about theological differences rooted in "profound convictions in faith."
Though he did not unpack the point, most observers understood this, at least in part, as a reference to debates over whether Christians should formally renounce attempts to convert Jews -- something that Benedict and other doctrinal conservatives see as a betrayal of Christianity's missionary imperative.
Abraham Lehrer, a leader of the synagogue community who greeted Pope Benedict, raised another sensitive issue. He told the pope that a decision by the Vatican to fully open its World War II archives "would be a good thing."
Those archives have been partially opened to researchers, but some material is still withheld pending what the Vatican has described as cataloguing and preparation. Some researchers and Jewish activists have clamored for full access, especially with regard to debates over Pope Pius XII and alleged "silences" on the Holocaust, though Vatican experts insist that remaining material will not add to the already familiar historical record.
Lehrer, whose mother is a Holcaust survivor and was present for the pope's visit, also warned that anti-Semitism persists in many environments, including the Catholic church.
Benedict's message on anti-Semitism carried special resonance, coming from the first German pope in more than 500 years, and a man who was briefly, albeit involuntarily, enrolled in the Hitler Youth, and who was drafted into the German army during World War II before deserting.
"In the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry," Benedict XVI said.
"The result has passed into history as the Shoah. … The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently contempt was shown for the sacredness of human life."
Benedict warned that anti-Semitism is not merely an artifact of the past.
"Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," he said.
On the church's theological understanding of Judaism, Benedict XVI invoked John Paul II.
"Both Jews and Christians recognize in Abraham their father in faith," he said, "and they look to the teachings of Moses and the prophets. Jewish spirituality, like its Christian counterpart, draws nourishment from the psalms. … In considering the Jewish roots of Christianity my venerable predecessor, quoting a statement by the German bishops, affirmed that 'whoever meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism.' "
Acknowledging great progress in Catholic/Jewish relations, Benedict said there's still work to do -- including developing the confidence to be critical of one another.
"We must come to know one another much more and much better," the pope said. "Consequently I would encourage sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians. … This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect for one another."
Meeting with German Protestants
Addressing another kind of dialogue later in the day, Benedict XVI met with an ecumenical delegation, composed especially of German Protestants, in a session at the archbishop's residence.
The pope said that coming from Germany, where Catholics and Protestants are fairly evenly split, gives him special sensitivity to ecumenical questions.
"As a native of this country, I am quite aware of the painful situation which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families," he said.
Benedict acknowledged the impatience of many believers on both sides of the Protestant/Catholic divide for more rapid progress, but warned that "there can be no dialogue at the expense of truth."
For one thing, Benedict made clear that when Catholics discuss unity, they mean inside the Catholic church, where Christian unity already "subsists," in a well-known phrase of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Yet unity, the pope said, does not have to mean uniformity.
Benedict made another theological observation about ecumenism. Many of the most pressing theological divides between Christians, he said, such as the nature of sacred ministry and priesthood, rest on a correct understanding of the Bible and the church.
Finally, Benedict called on Christians to practice "spiritual ecumenism," meaning "prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life." Citing ecumenical writer Paul Couturier, the pope called on Christians from the different confessions to form an "invisible cloister" of believers praying passionately for unity.
Seminarians also gather
In between these two appointments, Pope Benedict met with a group of 2,000 seminarians from a variety of countries, saying he wanted to highlight the "vocational dimension" of World Youth Day. In a six-paragraph talk, Benedict spoke fluently in five languages: German, French, English, Italian and Spanish.
In what may well have been a coincidence, Benedict read in English a paragraph that included the following line: "The role of formators is decisive: the quality of the presbyterate in a particular Church depends greatly on that of the seminary, and consequently on the quality of those responsible for formation." The remark comes on the eve of a Vatican-sponsored visitation of American seminaries, intended in part to take stock after the sexual abuse crises that have rocked the U.S. church.
One bit of unacknowledged trivia about the meeting with the seminarians is that the church in which it took place, St. Pantaleon, is the only parish in Cologne entrusted to the sometimes-controversial Catholic group Opus Dei. Vatican officials told NCR that the choice was based on the fact that St. Pantaleon was available, and is located conveniently near the center of the city.
As the pope made the rounds on Friday, hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims poured in and out of Cologne's legendary gothic-style cathedral, where the remains of the Three Wise Men are believed to rest. Thousands formed long lines to go to confession, while others prayed on either side of the chapel that houses the remains.
The New Testament line associated with the Three Wise Men, "We have come to worship him," is the official theme of the Cologne World Youth Day.
Correspondent's Notebook #2:By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Benedict in the synagogue; Assessing Benedict top date; The Magi pilgrims; On the papal plane; Some snags in logistics
Friday morning I attended a catechetical session led by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles in a parish in Cologne. Also in attendance was Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, an old friend of Mahony.
I took the opportunity to ask Martin what he made of Benedict XVI's performance so far.
"He's shown in so many ways that he has no intention of cloning John Paul II," Martin said. "He will do things his own way."
To date, there has been perhaps no clearer illustration of Martin's point than Benedict's Friday visit to the synagogue in Cologne, which was a warm and, by most accounts, successful affair, but carried out in a very non-John Paul II style.
Most noticeably, although Benedict had strong words about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, he never "went personal" in the characteristic fashion of John Paul II. Even though Benedict witnessed the horrors of which he spoke first hand, in his comments he never drew upon his own life experience - watching Nazi propaganda escalate in the late 1930s and 1940s, being involuntarily enrolled in the Hitler Youth, serving briefly in the German army, then coming to terms with the reality of the death camps.
Instead, speaking in calm tones, he offered a careful and rather impersonal reflection on the Jewish/Catholic relationship, both its present and its future.
Karol Wojytla, on the other hand, knew instinctively that his own life story offered riveting drama, and he routinely invoked it in the context of Jewish/Catholic relations. He grew up in Wadowice, a small Polish town just a few kilometers from Auschwitz. Many of his friends as a young men were Jews, and he always carried a reverence for Jewish tradition.
In addition, Benedict offered no memorable made-for-TV gestures, such as leaving behind a note in the Western Wall apologizing for centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, as John Paul II did during his trip to Israel in 2000. There were no spontaneous embraces, no off-script sound-bites.
In that sense, Benedict came off as a deeply gracious, thoughtful figure who is much less theatrical, less dazzling than his predecessor.
One thing that did strike participants afterward, however, was the pope's personal kindness. He listened attentively, greeted his hosts warmly, and took time to exchange words with everyone who was presented to him. In that sense, even without the "charisma factor," Benedict seemed to impress his audience favorably.
The lack of biographical reference in Benedict's remarks stood in contrast with his impromptu remarks on May 18, after the showing of a biographical film about John Paul II in the Vatican. The movie included scenes of Nazi repression of Jews and Poles. At the end, he stood and applauded.
He called the work a "moving film with very strong emotional references to the repression of the Polish people and the genocide of the Jews."
"One is talking about atrocious crimes that demonstrate all the evil contained in the Nazi ideology," Benedict said.
He said he saw a providential design in the fact that a Polish pope was succeeded by a German one.
"Both popes in their youth -- both on different sides and in different situations -- were forced to experience the barbarity of the Second World War," Benedict told the audience.
* * *
Another striking absence in Benedict's remarks on Friday was any reference to the State of Israel. There was some expectation that Benedict might touch the subject, since the Vatican and Israel recently engaged in a nasty diplomatic exchange over the pope's omission of Israel in a list of countries that have recently experienced terrorism in a late July address.
Vatican sources told NCR, however, that Benedict regards the Jewish-Catholic relationship as a separate matter from the diplomatic ties between the Holy See, as a sovereign state, and Israel. Among other things, he doesn't want the problems of the second relationship to unnecessarily burden the first; in recent years, those problems include the failure to reach agreement on accords governing the financial and legal status of church-run institutions in Israel. Currently, many church-run schools, hospitals, monasteries and pilgrimage centers are facing back-due tax bills that could cripple their operations if differences are not resolved.
* * *
One touching scene unfolded at the end of Benedict's hour-long visit. After the pope had finished saying goodbye to Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum and his other hosts, he got into his car for the brief trip back to the archbishop's residence for lunch with a group of young people.
Before the care pulled away, a man from the congregation at the synagogue, wearing the yarmulke and tallit (a cloth, generally white, that goes over the shoulders), approached the car, planted his hands on the pope's window, and gave it a kiss.
It seemed a final gesture of friendship in an event intended to put a punctuation mark on the progress in Jewish-Catholic relations in the 40 years since Nostra Aetate, the document of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which state unequivocally that " the church deplores feelings of hatred, persecutions and demonstrations of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at whatever time and by whomsoever."
* * *
In addition to Benedict XVI, several senior Catholic figures took part in the synagogue visit. Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, was there, as was Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Cardinal Walter Lehmann of Mainz (president of the German bishops' conference), and Archbishops Leonardo Sandri (the sostituto, or number two official in the Secretariat of State) and Piero Marini (the pope's top liturgist).
French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger's presence was perhaps especially significant. Lustiger was born of a Polish Jewish family that migrated to France early in the 20th century. His parents were deported during Nazi occupation, and his mother died in Auschwitz. The young Lustiger lived with a Christian family in Orléans, converted to Catholicism and received baptism on Aug. 25, 1940. At that point, he changed his first name from Aaron to Jean-Marie.
Given that history, Lustiger has always been committed to Jewish-Catholic dialogue, a relationship that in some ways he symbolizes in his own life story.
The high-powered Catholic delegation was one sign of the importance that Pope Benedict XVI attached to this visit, a prospect he first revealed to the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, Oded Ben-Hur, in an audience with diplomats after his election as pope.
* * *
More from my conversation with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a veteran of curial service. Martin worked in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and as the pope's representative to the United Nations in Geneva. A charming, witty, and media-savvy figure, some have touted Martin as a possible candidate to be the next Secretariat of State, essentially the "prime minister" in the Vatican system.
Martin believes that from the very beginning of his papacy, and despite his enormous admiration and affection for John Paul II, Benedict XVI has shown a determination to be his own man.
"When he came out on the balcony for that first blessing, the temptation was to say Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! ('let Christ be praised'), as was the style of John Paul," Martin said. "But he didn't take that over. It's a sign of the way he's going to move his pontificate forward."
Martin sees a certain shift in the role of the pope under Benedict.
"His communication will be primarily theological and spiritual," Martin said. "That will be his legacy. John Paul II brought enormous prestige to the papacy, but Benedict XVI will refocus to some extent where its essential characteristics are."
Martin also sees Benedict having a somewhat more withdrawn, thoughtful style.
"John Paul II came into a curia that didn't want him, though in the end it served him faithfully," Martin said. "Benedict XVI doesn't need the curia for what he wants to say. He has his own theological vision."
"What he needs," Martin said, "is quiet and calm so that he can work out his ideas."
* * *
I also had the chance to speak with Mahony Friday morning, who has brought more than 1,000 young people with him from the Los Angeles archdiocese.
Mahony has attended previous World Youth Days, so I asked him if anything in particular struck him as unique about Cologne. He noted the fact that events are spread out in several different localities, including Bonn, Dusseldorf and Leverkusen.
"In a way it's good," Mahony said. "The venues tend to be smaller, and we're in actual neighborhoods, so you get more of a sense of the country." At the same time, Mahony noted that the logistical challenges of getting people from point to point had so far proven rather taxing.
I asked Mahony what he made of the pope's performance to date.
"It's a quantum leap for him," Mahony said. "His background, his experience, is as a quiet thinker, and now he's facing the expectations of a rock star."
Mahony said that on the Rhine Thursday, Pope Benedict "tried very hard, and I think he succeeded. He was warm, he smiled, he waved, and the young people seemed delighted. He really wants to see the young people, and to be seen."
"I think he's going to be fine," Mahony said.
I reminded Mahony that a few years ago, while John Paul II was still alive, I wrote an analysis piece on papal trips, in which I quoted him as saying the next pope would certainly travel, but perhaps not in the same way. He might schedule fewer big events in stadiums, Mahony suggested, and spend more time in listening sessions with the local church.
Granted, I asked, World Youth Day is set up for big events -- but does he believe that on future trips, Benedict will adopt his model?
"I would surely hope so," he said. "Rather than these big mega-Masses outdoors, he could have sessions with the church of that area, hearing the concerns of laity, of the pastors, of the deacons, and so on. I think he would pick up much more about the local church that way."
I noted that after the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI, Mahony had praised his capacity to listen and predicted that he would be a collegial pope. Does he see evidence of that to date?
"I've only met with him once since his election," Mahony said. "It was July 8, when I was in Rome for a meeting." That meeting was of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See, composed of 15 cardinals from local churches around the world appointed by the pope to help oversee Vatican finances.
"The striking thing was, he came to the meeting," Mahony said. "John Paul II never came to our meetings, though he would sometimes have us in for lunch afterwards. But Benedict came and spent a half-hour with us, asking what we were discussing, getting the highlights, and asking about our questions. Some cardinals were actually a little hesitant, because they weren't accustomed to this."
What Benedict will eventually do with what he heard remains to be seen, Mahony said, but his presence and curiosity suggests a genuine desire for collaboration.
Mahony said he also hopes Pope Benedict will move quickly to address the Vatican's communications operation, which is currently divided across a number of departments (The Press Office of the Holy See, Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the Secretariat of State), often without a great deal of coordination. Mahony also said he hopes the Vatican will enhance in its use of the Internet.
* * *
World Youth Day's motto is "We Have Come to Worship Him," a reference to the Three Kings of the infancy narratives in the New Testament. Just as the Three Wise Men -- according to legend, Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar -- took a journey in search of the new-born King of the Jews, so the participants at World Youth Day say they have traveled to Cologne with same objective - to find Christ, and to worship him.
The Magi have a special resonance in Cologne, whose legendary gothic-style cathedral houses the relics of the Magi. They were originally housed in Milan, but left there in the fourth century and eventually arrived in Cologne in 1164.
As a result of all this, the Magi have become a central point of reference over these days.
As noted below, Benedict invoked the Magi at the very outset of the trip (technically, before his plane had even departed Rome's Ciampino airport), referring to the Magi as pilgrims who had set out "searching the just way to live."
His fullest reference to date came in an address to seminarians Friday afternoon. The pope said:
"Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the 'star' which they saw 'in the East,' and which they recognized as the star of the 'King of the Jews', that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah. So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them towards the King of the Jews, towards the kingship of God himself.
"The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.
"Dear friends, this is the mystery of God's call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely. The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment of grace which could be defined as 'falling in love.' His soul is filled with amazement, which makes him ask in prayer: 'Lord, why me?' But love knows no 'why'; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self."
As an aside, when the World Youth Day theme was set for Cologne three years ago, there was some debate among advisors to the Pontifical Council for the Laity and people who had worked on former youth days about whether or not the phrase "We Have Come to Worship Him" was advisable. There was already criticism that World Youth Day projects something of a "cult of personality" around the pope, and some wondered if the proposed phrase might invite confusion as to who the "him" refers to -- Christ, or the pope. Especially in Germany, where ecumenical divisions run deep, and where Protestants have long accused Catholics of an exaggerated devotion to the pope, some felt the phrase was a bomb waiting to explode.
So far, in fact, this does not seem to have been much of a problem, although there has been some inadvertent slippage. The young woman who welcomed Benedict XVI in English during his cruise on the Rhine, for example, said the following when addressing the pope: "Hundreds of thousands of young people who followed the invitation of Jesus Christ have come, like the Magi, to worship you." As a grammatical matter, the referent of that "you" could only be the pope, though most people I spoke with didn't seem confused.
In general, while there have been critical voices in the German press, no one seems to have picked a fight over the theme -- perhaps, in part, because with Benedict XVI it's clear the church has a pope uncomfortable with the pop star dimensions of the job, and determined to reshift the focus onto the message and the office rather than the man.
As a further aside, the meeting with seminarians took place Friday afternoon in Cologne's Church of St. Pantaleon. This church, which at one stage served a Benedictine monastic community, happens to be the only parish in Cologne entrusted to Opus Dei. (The parish does not stress the connection, though there is a link to the German Web site of Opus Dei on the parish's own site.)
Generally speaking, the clergy of Opus Dei (there are 1,850 priests in a worldwide membership of 85,491) do not staff parishes, since they are ordained primarily to serve the spiritual needs of Opus Dei members. Nevertheless, in a few cases they do so -- St. Thomas More parish in London, for example, or St. Eugenio in Rome, or St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago.
Trip planners told NCR that there is nothing to read into the choice of St. Pantaleon, except that it was a convenient centrally located site for the meeting. The pope did not make any mention of Opus Dei or its founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá, in his remarks.
* * *
A note about the "papal plane."
Many Americans often assume, by way of analogy to Air Force One, that the pope has his own plane that he uses on all his travels, perhaps with office space, living quarters, meeting rooms and so on. In fact, the pope does not own an airplane. When he flies out of Italy, he does so on a plane provided by Alitalia, the national carrier of Italy. When he comes home, he normally takes the national carrier of the country from which he is returning. In this case, that means Lufthansa. In either case, these are normal commercial planes that were probably in service the day before and will be again the day after. His lone "perk," so to speak, is that he sits up front in a first class seat. Occasionally, especially for longer flights, the plane will be modified slightly; when John Paul II flew to Toronto in 2002, for example, some of the seating in the first class cabin was removed so that a full bed could be installed. Normally, however, he rides more or less like any other passenger.
Generally, the pope flies out of Rome's Fiumicino airport and returns to Ciampino, in order to pay equal homage to both. In this case, however, the pope both left and will return at Ciampino, since it's substantially closer to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
One reason that journalists pay steep airfare to fly on the papal plane is the hope that the pope might come back to the press compartment, taking a couple of questions and perhaps making some news.
On the flight to Bonn/Cologne, Pope Benedict XVI walked back to the press compartment roughly five minutes prior to departure on April 18. Speaking in Italian, he wished the journalists buon lavoro, or good luck with their work. He then made the following comments:
"We are making today the pilgrimage of the Magi, who were searching for the just way to live. Like them, we arrive today at the goal. We'll see one another again in the course of these days."
The pope was then asked, "How do you feel making your first trip to your own country?"
"I'm moved, to be with my people, but above all to be with youth from all over the world. This is an extraordinary event, with young people from all parts of the earth, from all cultures, who find themselves together in the search for the truth. They are united in the love of Jesus Christ, and thereby are a force for peace in the world, today and in the future. Today, the star of Christ again guides and reunites the lost, creating communion, friendship, and joy, and thus opening also the hope of peace. It is a great thing to serve this end, and I hope to do my part."
Journalists then shouted questions about inter-religious dialogue, current events in the Holy Land, and other topics, but Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls escorted Benedict back into the area reserved for Vatican officials.
* * *
The vaunted German organizational machine has, to date, been only spottily in evidence during World Youth Day in Cologne.
To be fair, any gathering of a million people for a week creates massive organizational problems that test any system, however well-oiled. In addition, because events in Germany are spread out over several localities (Bonn, Dusseldorf, Leverkusen and elsewhere in addition to Cologne), the logistical challenges are all the more formidable.
Moreover, precisely because the Germans are supposed to be legendarily efficient, they suffer from a climate of high expectations. To put it simply, people expect everything to work. That undoubtedly sets the bar a bit too high.
Still, the snafus have so far ranged from irritating to rather hard to believe.
For example, after German President Horst Köhler welcomed Benedict XVI at the Bonn-Cologne airport on Thursday, a press convoy was supposed to ferry reporters immediately to the press boat that was to accompany the pope up and down the Rhine River. In fact, the convoy got lost several times along the way, at one stage ending up in an industrial zone on a one-way street, and having to circle around to head back. In the end, drivers had to stop and ask directions on the street in order to arrive at the proper dock.
Cardinal Roger Mahony told a similar story, that his World Youth Day-assigned driver got lost taking him Friday morning to his catechetical session at St. Nikolaus parish in a residential part of Cologne.
The problem, apparently, was that many of the volunteers -- who, by universal testimony, are warm and want to be helpful -- are not from Cologne, and thus don't know their way around. The same thing is true of some of the law enforcement officials on duty. Of course, one would think that they would have driven the routes in advance to make sure they knew where they were going, but given the massive crowds and snarled traffic in Cologne these days, perhaps it was impossible.
Pilgrims are experiencing similar frustrations.
A group from Bakersfield, Calif., is staying in the same hotel as the Vatican press corps. Several of the young participants told me Friday morning that although they had purchased a full meal package, with tickets for lunch and dinner each day, so far they had been unable to use them because of the massive lines. In the end, they decided that Burger King was a better solution.
The same group said they had been discouraged from attending the pope's cruise down the Rhine because the crowds would be too massive. Instead they watched a jumbo screen projection in a Cologne stadium, but because of the enclosed space they had no air on a very warm and humid afternoon, and some of the young people became ill. They ended up standing in a stadium tunnel, where there was a bit of breeze, and catching a sliver of the big screen.
A group from Dublin said they weren't even sure where their luggage would be the next day, since the lodging they had been assigned couldn't keep it during the day and they had nowhere else to put it. World Youth Day organizers had suggested they leave it on their bus, but they weren't using the same bus throughout the day.
Nor were the difficulties confined to reporters and pilgrims.
Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, for example, told me that the bishops who took one of the five boats accompanying the pope on the river were more or less abandoned when they got off the boat, and did not arrive at their hotel until several hours later, at which point the meals they were supposed to have were long gone.
Despite the hiccups, many of the participants seemed philosophical.
"It's a pilgrimage," Zavala said. "Difficulties are part of the experience."
August 19, 2005, National Catholic Reporter
Young people find pope disarming, intelligent, interested in themBy John Thavis
Catholic News Service
COLOGNE, Germany (CNS) -- Over omelets and apple strudel, 12 young people from six continents discussed life and faith with a relaxed Pope Benedict XVI.
They found him disarmingly open-minded, knowledgeable about their home countries and, above all, interested in them as individuals.
With the pope doing much of the translating, the World Youth Day representatives sat down for lunch with the 78-year-old pontiff Aug. 19 in Cologne, where some 800,000 youths were preparing to join in weekend events with the pope.
The close-up encounter left the young people momentarily awestruck, a feeling that quickly passed, they told a press conference later in the day.
"When they brought the pope fish and he said he'd rather have an omelet like the rest of us, you could see he was just another human being," said Anna Herbst, an 18-year-old German.
Lubica Javonovic, a 19-year-old from Australia, said that when the pope walked into the room "it was like heaven touching earth."
"I wanted to give him a big hug -- but then again, we had to be respectful," she said.
There were no hugs, no songs and no dancing like the similar luncheon at World Youth Day in Toronto three years ago with Pope John Paul II. The young people noticed the difference, but felt Pope Benedict showed his personal interest in another way.
"We saw John Paul II a lot on camera. He was charismatic and would give you a hug. This pope has another way of being close to you and showing his interest in you," said Veronique Rondeau, a 23-year-old student from Montreal.
Rondeau said she had expected to meet a "strict" pope. Instead, she said she found someone who asked questions of each of them, reflected on their opinions and made a lot of eye contact.
"I represent a continent, but I felt he was interested in me," she said.
The pope also impressed them with his knowledge and his linguistic skills. He spoke German, French, English and Spanish during the hourlong luncheon.
When a young woman from Republic of Congo said where she was from, the pope inquired about the political problems in the country. To a Chilean youth, the pope recalled his several trips to the country.
When the young people asked the pope how he felt when he first was elected, he told them he was amazed to walk out onto the balcony and see the huge crowd and the global interest.
He also was asked if he had any dreams as a young child, which prompted the pontiff to reflect on the cultural differences between the "more rational" Germany and other countries. He said that as a youth he did not spend much time trying to analyze his feelings.
As the group chatted and sipped white wine, the pope periodically brought the conversation back to the faith.
"He insisted that we have a personal relationship with Jesus," said Johny Bassous of Bethlehem, West Bank. "He spoke about our education and said theoretical knowledge was not enough, that we needed to put God at the center of our lives."
The pope gave the young people medals, and some brought gifts for the pope. Yunju Rosa Lee of Taiwan, 21, left the pontiff a compact disc of Chinese religious songs.
"I would like him to listen to how we praise the Lord," she said.
After praying in Latin following the meal, the group broke up. Asked whether the encounter would make a difference in their lives, German Klaus Langenstuck said: "I can't answer that right now. We'll have to see what happens in the future."
Pope visits synagogue, warns of new anti-SemitismAug 19, 11:03 AM (ET)
By Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan
COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, making a historic visit on Friday to a synagogue once destroyed by the Nazis, said Christians and Jews must join forces so the "insane racist ideology" that led to the Holocaust never resurfaces.
A Jewish leader called on him to open up all the Vatican's archives dealing with World War Two and the Holocaust -- a sore point between some Jews and the Holy See.
The Pope, who served briefly in the Hitler Youth during the war when membership of the Nazi paramilitary organization was compulsory, paused to pray at a memorial to the six million killed as he began the landmark visit.
The atmosphere was thick with significance and history -- a German Pope listening as Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum intoned the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, and the sound of the blowing of the Schofar, a ram's horn, filled the temple.
Benedict, who began his speech with the Hebrew words "Shalom lechem (peace unto you)" became only the second Pope known to have visited a synagogue since the early days of the Church some 2,000 years ago. John Paul visited a Rome synagogue in 1986.
Speaking in the temple destroyed in the anti-Jewish Kristallnacht attacks in 1938 and rebuilt in 1959, he called the Holocaust "this unspeakable and previously unimaginable crime."
"In the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry," he said.
While Catholic-Jewish relations have improved tremendously in the past half-century, particularly during the 27-year pontificate of John Paul, Benedict warned that new threats of racism and anti-Semitism were always lurking.
"It is a particularly important task, since today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," he said.
BE VIGILANT, POPE SAYS
"How can we fail to see in this a reason for concern and vigilance? The Catholic Church is committed -- I reaffirm this again today -- to tolerance, respect, friendship and peace between all peoples, cultures and religions," he said.
He repeated a promise he has made to Jews since the start of his pontificate that he would "continue on the path toward improved relations and friendship" blazed by John Paul.
"Yet still much remains to be done. We must come to know and love one another much more and much better," he said.
In his address to the Pope, one of the Jewish community's leaders, Abraham Lehrer, urged the Pope to open the Vatican's historical archives for the wartime period.
Some Jews say a total opening of he archives would help scholars shed light on the controversy surrounding the role of wartime Pope Pius XII.
Many Jews say Pius, Pope from 1939 to 1958, turned a deaf ear to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to save Jews and did not speak out more forcefully for fear of instigating Nazi reprisals.
"You grew up in Germany during a terrible time," Lehrer told Benedict. "We not only see in you the head of the Catholic Church but also a German who is aware of his historical responsibility."
Lehrer's elderly mother was in the audience and Rabbi Teitelbaum told the Pope her story:
"On her lower arm you can see the number with which she was tattooed in the concentration camp. In 1944 in Auschwitz she had neither the strength nor the power of imagination to think that one day in 2005 her son would officially greet the Pope in Cologne synagogue."
Pope Laments Increase in Anti-SemitismAug 20, 1:18 AM (ET)
By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) - German-born Pope Benedict XVI on Friday became the second pope to visit a synagogue, entering to the haunting tones of a ram's horn, praying before a Holocaust memorial and lamenting a rise in anti-Semitism.
"We need to show respect for one another and to love one another," Benedict said, pressing a theme of interfaith understanding that has marked his first foreign trip as pope.
The hourlong stop, for which Cologne's Jews stood and applauded, was filled with significance for the 78-year-old Benedict, who grew up in Nazi Germany. He called those times "the darkest period of German and European history."
He made no mention of his own trials, when he was enrolled in the Hitler Youth as a teenager and later deserted from the German army near the end of the war.
But his spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, called the stop at the blue-domed Roonstrasse Synagogue "an event of historic significance - a German pope, who was on his first official trip, himself took the initiative for the visit."
Rabbi Netanel Teitlebaum held up his right hand, extending it as the "hand of Jewish friendship," and the pope warmly grasped it.
Speaking in a synagogue rebuilt after being destroyed by the Nazis, Benedict said that "today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners."
He did not elaborate, but Europe especially has witnessed increasing hate crimes in recent years.
Benedict began the visit by standing quietly with his hands clasped during a Hebrew prayer before a memorial to the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany during World War II - 11,000 of them from Cologne.
Then he strode into the main hall as the choir sang, "shalom alechem," or "peace be with you." A shofar, or ram's horn, sounded as the pope sat down at the front. He listened intently as the cantor sang.
The pope underlined his commitment to the interfaith goals of his predecessor, John Paul II, who made the first papal visit to a synagogue in Rome in 1986, worked to improve relations between Catholics and Jews and established diplomatic ties with Israel.
"Today I, too, wish to reaffirm that I intend to continue on the path toward improved relations and friendship with the Jewish people, following the decisive lead given by John Paul II," said Benedict, who did much of the theological groundwork for John Paul's outreach while serving as a Vatican official in charge of doctrine.
Outreach to Jews and Muslims is one of the themes of Benedict's first foreign trip as pope in conjunction with World Youth Day, a Roman Catholic festival that has drawn more than 400,000 young people from 197 countries to Cologne. He planned to meet with Muslim leaders Saturday.
He met with Protestant leaders Friday evening, repeating his commitment in the land where the Reformation began to make Christian unity a priority of his pontificate.
But Benedict added that there are differences in ethical positions that undermine expectations for a common response from Christians. He did not go into any details.
Repeating a point from his synagague visit, the pope said that "there can be no dialogue at the expense of truth." He said efforts for closer relations must be pursued "in fidelity to the dictates of one's conscience."
Progress has been made between peoples, but "much more remains to be done," Benedict said at the synagogue. "We must come to know one another much more and much better."
The visit did bring out some of the troubled history between Catholics and Jews.
In welcoming the pope, synagogue president Abraham Lehrer urged Benedict to fully open the Vatican's World War II archives - a period during which some Jews claim Pope Pius XII did not do enough to stave off the Holocaust. The Vatican denies that and has begun releasing some documents.
But Benedict's visit also appeared to have helped smooth over a dispute between the Vatican and Israel that arose after the Israeli government faulted Benedict for not mentioning attacks on Israelis in a recent condemnation of terrorism. The Vatican responded with a terse statement asking the Israelis not to tell the pope what to say.
Abraham Lehrer, a member of the synagogue board, said the controversy "did not cast any shadow over the synagogue visit."
He noted the presence in the front row of Israel's ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, calling that "a sign that the controversy has been overcome." Stein was introduced to the pope.
Benedict's remarks focused on the horror of the Holocaust, the common heritage of Christians and Jews, and the need for better relations to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.
"In the 20th Century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry," he said. "The result has passed into history as the Shoah," he said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
Pilgrims Come Far, Wide to See, Hear PopeAug 19, 2:29 PM (ET)
By MATT MOORE
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) - Organizers of the 20th World Youth Day always envisioned a truly global mix of pilgrims, and travelers this year didn't let them down.
The bulk of the 415,178 registered pilgrims from 197 countries came from Europe, accounting for 79.2 percent, with North America coming in second with 8.9 percent. They were followed by South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
The Italians have the biggest delegation, with 101,174, followed by Germany with 83,929 and France with 38,549. Rounding out the top five were Spain with 31,908 pilgrims and the United States with 24,237.
More than 280,000 of the registered pilgrims were between the ages of 18 and 27.
Each registered pilgrim was given a souvenir two-tone blue backpack, with organizers saying that 500,000 were purchased for the event.
FEEDING THE FAITHFUL: So, how much food does it take to serve more than 400,000 pilgrims along with thousands more volunteers and staffers? More than the grocery store could hold.
Since World Youth Day began on Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of meals have been served and the amounts have been truly staggering. By the time the event ends Sunday, an estimated 6 million meals - featuring German noodles, Indian chicken and vegetarian dishes - will have been served, including more than 3.5 tons of coffee, 900,000 bread rolls and 79,254 gallons of milk each day, along with 1.8 million pieces of fruit.
SOCCER DEITY: World Youth Day is about young Catholics, the church and faith, but that doesn't mean the sighting of a celebrity is passed off with little fanfare. Brazilian soccer star Pele got a rousing welcome and loud cheers when he arrived this week at a hotel just off the square around the Cologne Cathedral. As he exited a black Audi sedan, hundreds of Brazilian pilgrims chanted and cheered and the 64-year-old athlete flashed his trademark smile and reached over the car to clasp hands.
WATER EVERYWHERE: The Rhine, which snakes its way past Cologne, is one of Europe's best-known rivers, but it's not wise to drink from it. Mindful of thirsty pilgrims, World Youth Day took the step of setting up 105 free watering stations across Cologne, Bonn and Duesseldorf to make sure that plenty of free water could be had. Operated by utility RheinEnergie, the towers - tall and marked with signs announcing free water - can provide as much as 52,835 gallons of water per second. The company said it is continuously monitoring the taps and tanks to prevent any bacteria from building up.
HEAVENLY TONES: Mindful of the role technology plays among the youths of today, Catholics have been embracing new ring tones for their cell phones. From "Kum Ba Ya" to "Ave Maria" and "Go Tell It On the Mountain," the ring tones have been available for download from Germany's Deutsche Telekom. But they're not free, with each download costing $1.82. Also available are logos showing the image of Jesus on the cross, the Virgin Mary or a dove of peace.
Spirituality, Commerce Meet in Pope TripAug 19, 3:18 PM (ET)
By MATT MOORE
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) - The unofficial beer of World Youth Day was a popular draw for thirsty pilgrims looking for more than something to drink.
The beer, bearing a photo of Pope Benedict XVI and brewed in his home of Bavaria, was among the scores of items being sold or traded among the more than 415,000 pilgrims who journeyed to Cologne for the 20th World Youth Day.
Officially sanctioned T-shirts and mugs with the event's logo, finger rosaries and pictures of Benedict also were selling quickly as retailers and restaurateurs reported surging sales from the influx of visitors.
Tomas Medrow, hawking papal suds to the thousands of pilgrims making their way toward the twin-spired Cologne Cathedral, said he was doing a brisk business. The sweet-tasting beer, available in a four-pack, sells for $3.05 a bottle.
"They want them as a souvenir to take home, something to show their friends back in France or the United States," the Cologne resident said.
Other vendors - a mix of young and old - offered candles bearing the image of the pope, while rosaries and sun hats were ubiquitous. Folding stools with the event's logo also were popular among weary pilgrims waiting in lines.
Some products were officially sanctioned by the Weltjugendtage 2005 GmbH, the company that organized the event, and were limited to offerings like candles, caps, key chains and enamel pins bearing the German flag and the Youth Day logo.
Others, like the T-shirts with Benedict's picture on the front, those with his name and the numeral 16 in a circle on the back like a soccer jersey, and the hand-hewn rosary beads sold from street-side stalls, were not.
Katherine Abbt, a 24-year-old German pilgrim from Augsburg, questioned the tastefulness of some products - in particular the T-shirts bearing Benedict's photo with the slogan: "The German Shepherd" - but didn't mind the others.
"I think it's OK to sell small pictures of the pope or other mementos," she said.
Cologne residents have found other ways to make a few extra dollars off the event as well, from renting rooms in their apartments and homes to listing bunk beds on the auction Web site eBay.
Stephan Schmidt, 35, pasted fliers on light poles around the cathedral square advertising a roomy, airy place with a bathroom and kitchen. He hoped to earn an extra $305.
"I had one person call, but they said it was too expensive," he said.
Others sought to alleviate pilgrims' aches and pains, offering back and foot massages in their hotels, rooms and even on the streets.
The city plans to release official figures tracking the economic impact later.
On the streets of Cologne, around the cathedral and various churches, people often engaged in their own barter, trading T-shirts, buttons, badges and flags.
Two Italians approached a group of Nigerian pilgrims, wearing flowing green robes, on Friday morning.
"Will you trade me your T-shirt for mine?" one Italian girl asked, gesturing with her hands and offering her hat. The Nigerian pulled one out of his bag and walked away with a blue safari hat bearing the Italian tricolor.
Hotels and hostels also have been booked for months while restaurants from kebab shops to steak houses have seen their tables filled with pilgrims washing down their schnitzel with wine and beer.
Even electronics stores reported a slight uptick in the sale of portable radios for pilgrims who want to hear real-time translations of the pope's speeches, including his planned Mass on Saturday, which are being translated into English, French, Spanish and Italian.
Enrique Reyes, 31, of New York, said pilgrims want to bring home more than just memories. "We've been waiting for this since last year," he said.
Associated Press reporter Melissa Eddy contributed to this report.