Germany's top Jewish leader will lead a delegation to meet with the German-born Pope Benedict XVI this week.
The pontiff began a four-day visit on Thursday, his third return to his homeland since 2005, when during his first trip back he went to visit a synagogue in Cologne. The second time, in 2006, he denounced the mass murder of European Jewry during a visit to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in neighboring Poland. He has also visited Israel, against the backdrop of numerous negotiations between Vatican officials and the Israeli government over properties held by the Holy See.
Dieter Graumann was swamped with reporters asking for his feelings about meeting with the worldwide leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“I think it is a wonderful sign that the pope is taking time right at the beginning of his busy schedule for us,” Graumann said. “It is a signal of friendship, of big-heartedness and underlines that the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism has improved considerably in the past few decades,” he added. “There is so much more that binds us, than divides us.”
Graumann, 61, whose family moved to Germany from Israel when he was a child, was appointed as national Jewish leader last year.
As such, he will also approach the 84-year-old pontiff on the delicate issue of his decision in 2009 to rehabilitate a bishop who is a virulent Holocaust denier, along with three other similarly anti-Semitic clergymen. Benedict has also moved ahead with a decision to beatify a controversial World War II pontiff, Pope Pius XII and revived a prayer for the conversion of Jews – decisions that have ignited fury in many Jewish corners.