Israel Hopes New Pope Will Fight Anti-Semitism

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is hoping that the newly chosen Pope Benedict XVI will continue in the footsteps of his predecessor, strengthening his ties with the Jewish State and Jewish people and fighting anti-Semitism.

The late Pope John Paul II revolutionized the way the Catholic Church viewed the Jewish people and worked hard to improve a relationship disfigured by two thousand years of anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people. He also established diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel.

Israel is now hoping for more of the same from the new pontiff.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom congratulated Pope Benedict XVI on his election, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"[Shalom] expressed his hope that in this papacy we will see the continuation of the strengthening of relations between Israel and the Vatican and the Jewish People and the Catholic Church," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

"[Shalom] expressed his hope that considering the new pope's personal experience, that he will be steadfast in the fight against anti-Semitism in all its forms," Regev said.

German-born Pope Benedict the XVI was forced to join Adolph Hitler's Nazi youth and later was conscripted as an under-age helper in a Nazi anti-aircraft unit.

But a commentary in Monday's Jerusalem Post, written before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was chosen as the 265th pope, said that even Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial had not chosen to make an issue out of it.

Ratzinger played an "instrumental role" in the Vatican's reconciliation with the Jewish People, the paper said.

"If that's theological anti-Semitism, then we should only be so lucky to 'suffer' more of the same," the paper said.

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