March 12, 2009 / 7:57 PM / 10 years ago

Pope to visit Rome synagogue in autumn

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will make his first visit to Rome’s synagogue in the autumn, Jewish community officials and the Vatican said on Thursday.

The late Pope John Paul became the first pope since the times of the apostles to enter a synagogue when he visited Rome’s temple on the banks of the Tiber in 1986 and made a historic speech calling Jews “our beloved elder brothers.”

Benedict has already visited synagogues in his native Germany and in the United States.

But a visit to Rome’s temple is thick with historical significance because of the troubled relationship over the centuries between the papacy and the local Jewish community, the oldest in the diaspora.

The date for the visit has not been set.

Relations between Catholics and Jews have been under severe strain in the past few months over the pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who denies the Holocaust.

The pope has since made several major declarations to repudiate Bishop Richard Williamson’s views and condemn anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Jewish officials from Israel met the pope on Thursday and later declared the crisis over.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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