Jewish leader asks pope to oppose threat of ‘Holocaust’ from Iran

Friday, October 13, 2006



VATICAN CITY — An American Jewish leader yesterday urged Pope Benedict XVI to help protect Jews from Iran, saying it and its president were examples of a new “global malignancy” of anti-Semitism that could bring another Holocaust.

Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States, made his comments in an address to the pope during an audience at the Vatican.

“We hope you will declare the church’s commitment to do everything in its power to prevent another Holocaust against the Jewish people from any party of the globe, including Iran,” Foxman told the pope.

“In this generation arises a country’s leader who not only denies the Holocaust, the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, but again threatens to wipe out Israel, the state of the Jewish people — the president of Iran,” Foxman told the pope.

Last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a “tumor” that must be “wiped off the map,” provoking a diplomatic storm and stoking up fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Ahmadinejad also aired his doubts about the veracity of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. His comments drew rebuke the world over, including from the Vatican at the time.

“Today, sadly, the profound evil of anti-Semitism has become a global malignancy, emanating with vicious, violent, virulent force from the Middle East and fundamental Islam,” Foxman said in his speech.

Anxiety over Iran in Israel and in world Jewish communities has increased since Tehran failed to meet an Aug. 31 deadline to give up uranium enrichment, which the United States and some other countries say is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

In his address to the Jewish group, the German-born Benedict reiterated the church’s condemnation of anti-Semitism but did not make any reference to Foxman’s comments about Iran.

The pope said Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders needed to work harder to improve dialogue and promote “authentic respect” among cultures and religions. He said members of the three great monotheistic religions should build on the “many common convictions” they share.

“In our world today, religious, political, academic and economic leaders are being seriously challenged to improve the level of dialogue between peoples and between cultures,” the pope told the Jewish delegation.