Pope Benedict XVI
Photo: AP
Preparations in Nazareth
Minister urges pope to condemn Shoah deniers
Days before Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel, Religious Services Minister Yakov Margi sends letter asking him to unequivocally condemn anti-Semites during visit to Yad Vashem. Meanwhile, 80,000 policy, security guards prepare for visits, receive specific instructions to maintain appearance as world watches

Pope Benedict XVI left from Rome on Friday for his Middle East visit that will start off in Jordan. The pope is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday.


Preparations for the visit are being completed, and calls have been heard for the leader of the Catholic Church to take a decisive stand against Holocaust denial.


Religious Services Minister Yakov Margi sent a letter to the pope urging him to clearly and unequivocally condemn Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites.


Margi explained that "some of them take refuge under the Holy See or believe in the path represented by the Church".


The minister also urged the pope to make such condemnations clear during his scheduled visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority museum.


Meanwhile, police are preparing for "Operation White Robe", that will include 80,000 officers and security guards, and have issued special orders in recent days to avoid any awkward incidents at a time when the entire Christian world will be watching the Holy Land.


The document of instructions issued to police officers stressed that "we represent the State at all times, and this is especially true during this event.


"Showing respect to the beliefs and customs of all religions and sects is our duty as representatives of the State and as people who respect the freedom of worship, which is one of the cornerstones of democracy - thus the importance in being representative and courteous."


As the pope's visit will receive much media coverage in Israel and around the world, police were instructed to "treat the media representatives in a dignified and respectable way and not get dragged into unofficial conversations with them".


In the document, police were also reminded to "maintain a proper and representative appearance including nametags, and to keep a clean and orderly environment in areas where officers are stationed. Patience, tolerance and restraint should also be maintained".


Roni Sofer contributed to this report


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