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Papal outreach to German Jews, Muslims

Catholic World News - September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI met separately with Jewish and Muslim leaders during the first 24 hours of his pastoral visit to Germany.

The Pontiff met with representatives of the German Jewish community in Berlin on Thursday afternoon, September 22. He welcomed Muslim leaders at the residence of the apostolic nuncio on Friday morning, September 23, before leaving for Erfurt. "The Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people," the Pope said at the first meeting. “For Christians, there can be no rupture in salvation history,” he continued. “Salvation comes from the Jews.” The Pope went on to explain that the Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Law of Moses, but “reveals its hidden possibilities and allows more radical demands to emerge.”

The Pope expressed his pleasure at the fact that “Jewish life is now blossoming in Germany,” after years of difficult recovery from the Holocaust. He reflected on the immense suffering of the Jewish people during the Nazi era, saying: “What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed.” The next morning, in meeting with the representatives of Germany’s 4.5-milion strong Muslim population, the Pope emphasized the importance of religious freedom, and sought to make common cause with Muslims against secularization. Pointing out that many Muslims “attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life,” the Pope said that Christians should sympathize.

Such emphasis on the value of faith is not common in modern secular society, the Pontiff said. "At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual's personal choices.” Christians and Muslims alike should insist that Germany maintain the respect for religious freedom that is guaranteed in its fundamental laws, he said.

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