Pope Benedict is scheduled to visit Rome’s synagogue, the spiritual home of the world's oldest Jewish community. But the visit is dampened by a controversial issue that involves the Jewish community.
Pope Benedict will pay his first visit to Rome's synagogue on January 17, in what is being called an historic event. But the pontiff's visit has sparked debate among the Jewish community.
Some Jews disagree with Pope Benedict's decision to move wartime pontiff Pius XII one step closer to sainthood by approving a decree recognizing his "heroic virtues." They have accused Pius of not doing enough to help Jews facing persecution.
The man who will host the visit, Head Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, hopes that Pope Benedict’s visit will encourage dialogue between Jews and Christians over the controversial issue.
[Riccardo Di Segni, Rome’s Chief Rabbi]: (Male, English)
"We have to try to find the right way to go ahead with the process of friendship with Christians and this is the challenge for today…the problem of the past - the interpretation of the past - is one of the main difficulties. But we also have the problem of the future, so we all have to understand what is possible to do in this narrow street."
However, the Vatican insists that Pius intervened indirectly to help the Jews in a wartime Europe dominated by Hitler.
[Cardinal Walter Kasper, Head of Relationships with Jews]: (Male, English)
"…The decision about the so-called heroic virtues is not only historical, it's more a spiritual judgment of the Holy Father and it is an internal question of the Catholic church."
The two remaining steps to sainthood for Pius are beatification and canonization, which could take many years.
The Rome temple is the spiritual home of the world's oldest Jewish community outside Israel, and is significant in religious dialogue because of its proximity to the Vatican.