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Israeli PM offers condolences on death of Pope Benedict XVI

Benedict, the first pope to retire in 600 years, reached out to Jews during his papacy. His first official act was to send a letter to Rome’s Jewish community.

Pope Benedict XVI visits the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, May 15, 2009. Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90.
Pope Benedict XVI visits the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, May 15, 2009. Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening expressed his “deep condolences to the Christian world” on the death of Pope Benedict XVI.

“He was a great spiritual leader who was fully committed to the historic reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, which he movingly expressed during his historic visit to Israel in 2009,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“In my meeting with him, he spoke warmly about the common heritage of Christianity and Judaism and the values ​​that this heritage gave to all of humanity. We will remember him as a true friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” Netanyahu added.

Benedict died Saturday at his home in the Vatican at age 95. He was a “reluctant pope,” according to the Associated Press, and the first to retire in 600 years.

Born Joseph Ratzinger, he was a member of the Hitler Youth and, by the end of WWII, a soldier. During the war, he was assigned to track bombers and later worked as a telephonist.

He reached out to Jews during his papacy. His first official act as pope was to send a letter to Rome’s Jewish community, and “he became the second pope in history, after John Paul, to enter a synagogue,” according to AP.

Benedict exonerated the Jewish people for the death of Christ in his 2011 book “Jesus of Nazareth.” He said that biblically and theologically, there was no scriptural basis for the argument that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus’ death, AP reported.

“It’s very clear Benedict is a true friend of the Jewish people,” said Rabbi David Rosen, who heads the interreligious relations office for the American Jewish Committee, at the time of Benedict’s retirement.

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