European Jewish Press, September 7, 2007

Vienna - Pope Benedict XVI, who started Friday a three-day visit to Austria, made a brief stop at a monument in Vienna to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust to honor their memory in silence with representatives of the local Jewish community. Under a heavy rain, he exchanged a few words with members of the community. "It is the moment to express our sadness, our repentance and our friendship towards the Jews," he had told journalists accompanying him in the plane from Rome.

The ceremony took place in Judenplatz (Jewish Square) in the center of Vienna, in front of the monument built to commemorate the suffering of the Jews deported by the Nazis during WW II. On this place an anti-semitic pogrom took place in 1421.

Austria's chief rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg and seven other representatives of the Jewish community attended the ceremony and recited Kaddish, the Jewish mourner's prayer. Around 12,000 Jews live today in Austria. During the Nazi period 60,000 Austrian Jews died.

Benedict Austria

Pope Benedict XVI

with Austria's Chief Rabbi,

Paul Chaim Eisenberg

Earlier, Cardinal Christoph Schoernborn, archbishop of Vienna, reminded the public that Jesus and the apostles were Jewish and that "we must never forget our roots." He also denounced the participation of some Austrians in the Nazi atrocities. "It is part of this city's tragedy that it is indeed here that these roots were forgotten, even denied, to the point of wanting to destroy a people to whom God gave his first love," he said.

During a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in May 2006, Benedict XVI had qualified the Holocaust as being "unequalled in history."

Pope Pays Tribute to Austria's Holocaust Victims

Agence France-Presse

Vienna - Pope Benedict XVI voiced "sadness and repentance" as he paid solemn tribute Friday to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust at the start of a three-day visit to Austria. Shortly after his arrival in Vienna, the pope made a brief stop at Judenplatz (Jews' Square) which is home to a monument to the 60,000 Austrian Jews killed during World War II. The pontiff paid a silent tribute at the memorial, before exchanging a few words with members of the Jewish community. "It is time to express our sadness, our repentance and our friendship towards the Jews," Benedict XVI had said earlier on the plane while flying into Vienna from Rome.

The pope was greeted at Vienna airport by Austrian President Heinz Fischer and the country's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who also underlined that Jesus and the apostles were Jewish and that "we must never forget our roots." "It is part of this city's tragedy that it is indeed here that these roots were forgotten, even denied, to the point of wanting to destroy a people to whom God gave his first love," Schoenborn said.

Received with military honors and a children's choir, the pope expressed "great joy" at returning to a country he knew well, having grown up in neighboring Bavaria. "this cultural space in the heart of Europe transcends borders and brings together ideas and energies from various parts of the continent," he said in German.

His visit has been greeted with some criticism in a country where the traditionally powerful Catholic Church is waning in influence. But speaking at the airport, the pope argued "the culture of this country is deeply imbued with the message of Jesus Christ." "All this, and much more, gives me a vivid sense ... of being 'at home' here in your midst," he added.

Pope Honors Austrian Jewish Dead

BBC News

Pope Benedict XVI has begun a three-day visit to Austria by paying silent tribute to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust at a memorial in Vienna. The pope said his visit was an expression of "sadness, repentance and friendship" towards the Jewish people. the pontiff, brought up in the German province of Bavaria, will also visit a Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary. The Vatican says the Pope is travelling as a pilgrim but correspondents say his trip is akin to a state visit. It is the Pope's seventh foreign trip in the past two years and comes after a week of high-profile meetings with leaders including Israeli President Shimon Peres and Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara.

Deep Roots - The pontiff was accompanied at the Vienna memorial by the city's chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg. The men stood in silent tribute before a stone memorial to the 65,000 Viennese Jews who perished in Nazi death camps, and others who died in earlier purges. Austrian Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said the Pope's silence during the ceremony "will say more than words."

The BBC's David Willey, in Rome, says the Church has deep roots in Austria, but it is suffering from a growing number of defections. Amost one third of Austrian Catholics have left the Church since the late Pope John Paul II visited Austria in 1983, he says.

Cardinal Schoenborn said a key goal of the Pope's visit was to encourage faith "in a time when many are saying that faith has no meaning and is unreasonable." The Austrian Catholic Church has been shaken by widely-reported sex scandals involving two high-ranking prelates in recent years.

Pope Visits Holocaust Memorial

The New York Times

Vienna, Sept. 7 - The German-born Pope Benedict XVI offered a silent prayer at the spare Holocaust memorial at Judenplatz here today, saying earlier that his visit to Austria was aimed partly at showing "repentance" for crimes against Jews during World War II. He visited the memorial, inscribed with the names of 65,000 Jews killed in Austria during the time, not long after arriving on a chilly and rainy morning for what he termed a three-day "pilgrimage" to a nation he visited often before becoming pope two years ago.

The central event of this trip, his seventh out of Italy, will be a visit on Saturday to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the shrine to the Virgin Mary at Mariazell, 60 miles from Vienna. But in remarks on the plane from Rome, the 80-year-old pope made clear he had other aims as well on a visit to Austria, an overwhelmingly Catholic country with a nonetheless turbulent recent history with the church. Using unusually emotive words, he singled out the visit to the Jewish memorial, constructed in part from a medieval synagogue destoryed in a 15th century pogrom. His prayer here, he told reporters, was meant "to show our sadness, our repentance and also our friendship with our Jewish brothers."

At the memorial on Judenplatz, blooming with umbrellas against the rain, benedict met with the chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, and other leaders of Vienna's 7,000 remaining Jews. In 1938, the city was one of Europe's thriving Jewish centers, where some 185,000 Jews lived. .... He said on the plane his voyage was "not political but a pilgrimage" and so he did not plan to deliver an overtly political message. "I want to reflect a bit on Europe, on the Christian roots of Europe, as a path to follow," he said. "But it's obvious in everything we do that dialogue, both with other Christians and with Muslims and other religions, is always present as a dimension of our actions."

Holocaust Memorial Visit Shows "Repentance" : Pope

Reuters - by Philip Pullella, September 7, 2007

German-born Pope Benedict on Friday said the Roman Catholic Church wanted to show "repentance" for what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed some six million of them. The use of such a strong and specific term by the pope, who arrived for a three-day visit to Austria on Friday, was the latest in a series of occasions on which church leaders said the church should seek forgiveness for offences against Jews and come to terms with religious roots of anti-semitism.

Benedict will visit at a monument at Vienna's Judenplatz, commemorating the 65,000 Austrian Jews killed by the Nazis. The leader of the world's 1.1. billion Roman Catholics said he wanted his visit to the memorial to show "our sadness, our repentance, our friendship with our Jewish brothers."

In 1998 the local Church put a plaque on a nearby building reading: "Today, Christianity regrets its share in responsibility for the persecution of Jews and realizes its failure." The silent prayer at Judenplatz is Benedict's latest clear commitment to combating anti-Semitism and followed a visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland last year, where he asked why God remained silent when millions of people, mostly Jews, were murdered there.

The Pope himself served briefly in the Hitler Youth during the war when membership in the Nazi paramilitary organization was compulsory, although he was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Hitler's regime.  

Austrian Jews ask Pope for Help on Iran

 Associated Press, Sept. 13, 2007 - by Veronika Oleksyn

VIENNA -  Two prominent Austrian Jewish leaders urged Pope Benedict XVI to use his moral authority to stop Iran from developing the ability to produce nuclear weapons and prevent a "catastrophe for all of humanity," according to a letter released Wednesday. The letter, which the pope received during a three-day visit to Austria last week, was written in consultation with other Jewish communities in Europe, said Ariel Muzicant, the head of Vienna's Jewish Community.  He co-signed the letter with Vienna's chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg.

Iran insists its nuclear program is only for energy, but the United States and its Western allies fear it is a cover for making weapons. Israel sees Iran, whose president has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction, as a threat to its existence.

The letter said Jews were greatly concerned that more than 60 years after the Holocaust, Iran was "officially threatening the state of Israel with "destruction and obliteration." It goes on to ask the pope, referred to as one of the world's most important authorities, to do everything in his power to prevent a "possible catastrophe for all of humanity."

Muziczant declined to specify what he'd like the pope to do but said time was running out. "This catastrophe is for us the possibility that within the next 12 months Iran will go nuclear acquires the ability toproduce nuclear material, to the point of nuclear bombs," he said. Muzicant said Europeans "held the key" to resolving the conflict and urged them to do more, in particular by putting economic pressure on Iran. Some European countries, including Austrian energy giant OMV, have been criticized by the United States for pursuing business deals with Iran.