May 10, 2009 / 9:37 AM / 9 years ago

TIMELINE - Pope Benedict's visit to Israel

(Reuters) - Pope Benedict will arrive in Israel on Monday. Following is a timeline of events in Vatican-Jewish relations since the first Papal visit to Israel in 1964:

1964 - Pope Paul VI becomes the first modern pope to visit the Holy Land but this does little to improve relations. He never utters the word Israel during the trip 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, whose friendships with Jews in his native Poland had brought him respect among Jews, visits Rome’s synagogue and becomes the first pope since the days of the early Church to visit a Jewish place of worship saying Jews are “our beloved elder brothers.”

1994 - Vatican and Israel forge full diplomatic ties after 2,000 years of Christian-Jewish hostility.

1998 - 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. It also defends wartime Pope Pius XII from accusations that he ignored the Holocaust. Jews welcome the condemnation of anti-Semitism but 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 - Succession of a German, Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict XVI attracts international comment, especially over his brief period in the Hitler Youth which he said was forced. When he visits the Cologne synagogue, the appeal by the Jewish community there to open all Vatican archives concerning World War Two shows Pius XII remains an obstacle to reconciliation. Pope John Paul had put Pius on the road to 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 criticised Israel over 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.

— On January 24, Benedict lifts the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops to try to heal a 20-year-old schism that began when they were thrown out of the Church for being ordained without permission of Pope John Paul.

— One of the four bishops, British-born Richard Williamson, gives a television interview denying the extent of the Holocaust. His comments and the pope’s decision to lift the excommunication caused a deep rift in Catholic-Jewish relations.

— Pope Benedict tries to heal the rift by expressing his “full and unquestionable solidarity” with Jews.

February 2009 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls on the pope to make clear he did not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust in unusually strong words, which draws a sharp response from the Vatican. Bishops in several European countries say there is no place for Holocaust denial in the Church.

— The Vatican orders Williamson to publicly recant his views if he wants to serve as a prelate in the Church.

— World Jewish leaders tell Vatican officials that denying the Holocaust was “not an opinion but a crime” when they meet to discuss Williamson and his views.

March 2009 - Israel’s religious leaders ask Pope Benedict to make Holocaust studies a required subject in Catholic schools.

April 2009 - Pope Benedict’s decision to send a Vatican delegation to the U.N. conference on racism opens a new rift in relations with Jewish groups, which said it was being used as a platform to attack Israel.

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