The most frustrating thing is that nothing exceptional was required of you Monday night, the honorable pope. After all, you were not asked to do something unprecedented or heroic. All that was required from you was a brief, authoritative and touching sentence. All you had to do was to express regret. That’s all we wanted to hear.
Everything was ready. You were already at Yad Vashem. The entire world was watching you. Everyone waited for that moment, yet the moment never arrived.
That little sentence missing in your speech would have lifted many doubts for us, our friend Benedict XVI. After all, some people argue that you endorsed a Holocaust-denying bishop and that you were a member of the Hitler Youth. On the other hand, you were a child, and if anyone was to blame for this it was your parents; besides, who didn’t join that youth movement at that time?
The Church did not act or speak out against the Holocaust during the war, but here too there are some assumptions: After all, you are located in Rome, you have no army, and the Germans entered Italy as well.
You see, Mr. Benedict, we hold respect for you, but also plenty of doubts that could have been lifted Monday during your Yad Vashem speech. There are many questions that could have been resolved.
And it’s not as though you were far from doing it: In your meeting with the Palestinians you walked out when Israel was smeared, and your entire visit was accompanied by statements of reconciliation. The very visit to Yad Vashem served as a perfect platform for an expression of regret.
However, you thought otherwise. You thought that visiting Yad Vashem is enough. You assumed that Yad Vashem is a sort of art museum – it’s good enough to just visit. You characterized the Holocaust as a war, and the victims who were put into the gas chambers were characterized in your speech as people who were killed, rather than massacred, heaven forbid.
The most regrettable thing is that deep within us we know this is not only a question of semantics. This was the essence. The essence that was lacking in your speech Monday night, a speech that made it clear to all of us, Mr. Benedict, that you too are not completely righteous.