Allen summarizes the controversy this week over the Pope’s words at Auschwitz-Birkenau:

From a communications point of view, the pope’s Achille’s heel is that by refusing to satisfy prevailing expectations, Benedict can sometimes send the wrong signal to people who, quite naturally, interpret his words and deeds through the prism of those expectations.

Thus by neglecting to say anything about anti-Semitism, and by avoiding the complicity of ordinary Germans, Benedict seemed to some observers to be "rolling back" post-Second Vatican Council gains in the Catholic church on relations with Judaism and the church’s capacity for self-criticism.

"It’s symbolically important that Pope Benedict went to Auschwitz, but I was expecting a different speech," said Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, noting that the pope did not expressly condemn anti-Semitism.

"At Auschwitz, of all places, Benedict might have referred to the biblical and Catholic roots of European anti-Semitism," Oliver Kamm wrote in The Times of London. "He preferred to concentrate on the heroism of Catholic witnesses against Nazism. The picture he gave was thereby highly misleading."


Vatican sources strenuously rejected suggestions that Benedict’s "silence" on anti-Semitism should be read as a step backwards in papal leadership on the issue.

In his Wednesday General Audience, Benedict spelled out what he left unsaid on Sunday:

"Auschwitz must not be forgotten, and the other ‘factories of death’ in which the Nazi regime tried to eliminate God in order to take his place!" the pope said. "We must not cede to the temptation of racial hatred, which is at the origins of the worst forms of anti-Semitism!"

The Vatican Information Service summary of that Audience

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