May 15, 2009 / 11:26 AM / 8 years ago

Pope, leaving Israel, slams Holocaust denial

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BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel, May 15 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Friday as he left Israel that the Holocaust "must never be denied", using language that may go some way to addressing Jewish disappointment over his remarks earlier in his tour.

He recalled as "one of the most solemn moments of my stay in Israel" his visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where some Israelis had said his speech lacked the personal note they wanted to hear from a German of his generation.

The 82-year-old pontiff said Yad Vashem reminded him of his landmark 2006 visit to Auschwitz -- a time when he did mention his background as "a son of the German people" in World War Two.

"At Yad Vashem," he said, "those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews ... were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred. That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied."

The pope, who has been criticised by Jews for among other things reinstating a bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust, also repeated his call for religious dialogue.

"We are nourished from the same spiritual roots," he said. "We meet as brothers, brothers who at times in our history have had a tense relationship, but now are firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship." (Reporting by Philip Pullella, writing by Alastair Macdonald, editing by Douglas Hamilton)

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