Jews ask pope for Holocaust studies in schools

Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:53pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Israel's religious leaders asked Pope Benedict on Thursday to make Holocaust studies a required subject in Catholic schools, saying it could help combat anti-Semitism in future generations.

The two sides resumed a dialogue that was interrupted by the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop, which brought Catholic-Jewish relations to their lowest point in half a century.

The Israelis also asked that the Vatican take a strong stand against the draft final declaration of next month's U.N. conference on racism, a statement some countries view as hostile to Israel.

"May we suggest for your consideration that the history and the moral import of the Shoah ... become a required subject for inclusion in the curriculum of students at all Catholic schools the world over," Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen asked the pope during a meeting at the Vatican, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust.

Cohen, who is chief rabbi of Haifa, said such a move would "reinforce your strong stand against Holocaust denial and declaring anti-Semitism as a sin against God."

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Congress, told reporters afterwards: "I hope a recommendation (from the pope on Holocaust studies in Catholic schools) will come out of this latest crisis. That will be a silver lining to the cloud."


The meeting between representatives of Israel's chief Rabbinate and Vatican officials on Wednesday and Thursday was to have taken place last month but was postponed by the Jewish side because of the controversy over Bishop Richard Williamson.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI (R) greets Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, during their meeting at the Vatican March 12, 2009. Israel's religious leaders asked the Pontiff on Thursday to make Holocaust studies a required subject in catholic schools, saying it could help stamp out potential anti-Semitism in future generations. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano</p>