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Laying a wreath at a memorial to Roman Jews rounded up by the Nazis in 1943 and joining in a standing ovation to a dwindling group of still living Holocaust survivors, Pope Benedict XVI broke the ice with Rome’s Jewish community even before he began to speak. The pope made his first visit to Rome’s main synagogue Jan. 17, strongly affirming the Catholic Church’s commitment to improving Catholic-Jewish relations, its respect and appreciation for Jewish faith, its condemnation of anti-Semitism and his own hope that Catholics and Jews can work together to bring biblical values back to society. Pope Benedict began by telling 1,500 people packed into the synagogue that he came to “confirm and deepen” the dialogue and to demonstrate “the esteem and the affection which the bishop and the church of Rome, as well as the entire Catholic Church, have towards this community and all Jewish communities around the world.” But he also responded to a widespread impression within the Jewish community, especially the community in Rome, that Pope Pius XII did not do enough to speak out against the Holocaust.

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