|Pope Benedict embraces President Peres in Jerusalem 370.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
As pope steps down, chief rabbi lauds Vatican ties
Pope Benedict resigns, becomes 1st pope since Middle Ages to quit; Metzger praises pope's inter-religious outreach.
Following the announcement of Pope Benedict's resignation on Monday,
Israeli chief rabbi Yona Metzger praised his inter-religious outreach
and said relations between Israel and the Vatican had never been better.
his period (as pope) there were the best relations ever between the
church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will
continue," a spokesman quoted Metzger as saying after the pope announced
he would resign. "I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing
inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and
Metzger wished the pope "good health and long days", the spokesman said.
of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Benedict said on Monday he
will resign on Feb 28. because he no longer has the strength to fulfil
the duties of his office, becoming the first pontiff since the Middle
Ages to take such a step.
The 85-year-old German-born Pope,
hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics and viewed with suspicion by
liberals, said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over
His papacy has been beset by a child sexual abuse
crisis that tarnished the Church, one address in which he upset Muslims
and a scandal over the leaking of his private papers by his personal
In a statement, the pope said in order to govern "...both
strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few
months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to
recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to
"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this
act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop
of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter," he said according to a statement
from the Vatican.
A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff would step
down from 1900 GMT on Feb. 28, leaving the office vacant until a
successor was chosen to Benedict who succeeded John Paul, one of
history's most popular pontiffs.
Elected to the papacy on April
19, 2005 when he was 78 -- 20 years older than John Paul was when he was
elected -- he ruled over a slower-paced, more cerebral and less
But while conservatives cheered him for trying
to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, his critics accused him of
turning back the clock on reforms by nearly half a century and hurting
dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also responded to Monday's announcement, praising the pope's character and recalling a meeting they had in 2011.
"I was honored to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Britain on behalf of non-Christian faiths in 2010 and spend time with him during a visit to the Vatican in 2011," he said.
"I saw him to be a man of gentleness, of quiet and of calm, a deeply thoughtful and compassionate individual who carried with him an aura of grace and wisdom. I wish him good health, blessings and best wishes for the future,” Rabbi Sacks added.
Joining the chorus of voices, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder issued a statement: "It is with great emotion that we learned today that Pope Benedict XVI will retire at the end of this month. His decision deserves our greatest respect."
"The papacy of Benedict XVI elevated Catholic-Jewish relations onto an unprecedented level. Not only did he maintain the achievements of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and give the relationship solid theological underpinning but, more importantly, he filled it with meaning and with life," the statement read.
"From beginning to end, Pope Benedict XVI has shown skillful leadership. He realized that the public Holocaust denial by church leaders must not go unanswered, and he spoke out against it," Lauder continued. "He always had an outstretched hand and an open ear for Jewish leaders."
Jpost.com staff and Jonny Paul contributed to this report