TIMELINE - Pope Benedict angers Jews

Sun Jan 25, 2009 12:31pm GMT

(Reuters) - Pope Benedict's rehabilitation of four traditionalist bishops may heal one Catholic wound at the expense of opening a wider one with Jews because one of the prelates is a Holocaust denier.

Following is a timeline of recent events in Catholic-Jewish relations:

1964 - Pope Paul VI becomes the first pope in modern times to visit the Holy Land but this does little to improve relations and he never utters the word Israel during his 12-hour visit to the Jewish state, which the Vatican did not recognise at the time.

1965 - The Second Vatican Council issues a document "Nostra Aetate" ("In Our Times"), repudiating the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus Christ's death for the first time.

1986 - Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope since the days of the early Church to visit a Jewish place of worship when he enters Rome's synagogue. He calls Jews "our beloved elder brothers."

1994 - The Vatican formally establishes diplomatic relations with Israel.

1998 - The Vatican apologises in the document "We Remember, a reflection on the Shoah" for Catholics who failed to do enough to help Jews against Nazi persecution. However, it also defends wartime Pope Pius XII from accusations that he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. While Jews welcome the document's strong condemnation of anti-Semitism, they say it fails to account adequately for the role of Catholic teachings in spawning it and criticise its defence of Pius.

2000 - Pope John Paul visits Israel and its Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, crowning two decades of effort to reconcile Catholics and Jews and sweep away centuries of suspicion.

2005 - New Pope Benedict XVI visits the Cologne synagogue. The appeal by the head of the Jewish community there to open all Vatican archives concerning World War Two shows that Pius XII remains a major stumbling block on the road to reconciliation. Pope John Paul had put Pius on the road to sainthood.

May 2007 - The Vatican's saint-making department votes in favour of a decree recognising Pius's "heroic virtues," a major hurdle in the long process towards sainthood.

December 2007 - Moves to make Pius a saint are delayed as Benedict has said he wants to review older documents from World War Two and study new ones that have come to light.

February 2008 - Pope Benedict orders changes to a Latin prayer used by traditionalist Catholics for Jews at Good Friday services. Jews criticised the new version because it still says they should recognise Jesus Christ as the saviour of all men and it keeps an underlying call to conversion.

November 2008 - Benedict pays tribute to Pius XII. Benedict has so far not approved a decree making him a saint, opting instead for what the Vatican has called a period of reflection.

January 2009 - Israel criticises Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, after he delivered the Vatican's toughest criticism of Israel since its offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip, calling it a "big concentration camp."

-- Elia Enrico Richetti, chief rabbi of Venice, announces a boycott of the Church's annual celebration of Judaism, saying decisions by Benedict are negating years of interfaith progress.

-- The pope issues a decree lifting the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops, thrown out of the Church in 1988 for being ordained without Vatican permission. The four bishops lead the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X, which has rejected modernisation of Roman Catholic worship and doctrine.

-- One of the four bishops, British-born Richard Williamson, has made several statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust.

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