World News

TIMELINE: Pope Benedict angers Jews

(Reuters) - Jewish leaders will meet the pope on Thursday to discuss strains in Jewish-Catholic relations since the Vatican lifted the excommunication on a bishop who denies the Holocaust.

Following is a timeline of recent events.

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 recognize 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 establishes diplomatic relations with Israel.

1998 - The Vatican apologizes 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 criticize its defense 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 an obstacle on the road 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 criticized the new version because it still says they should recognize Jesus Christ as the savior 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 criticizes Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, after he criticized 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.

-- The pope lifts 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 modernization of Roman Catholic worship and doctrine.

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

-- In late January Pope Benedict tried to heal the rift by expressing his “full and unquestionable solidarity” with Jews.

February 2009 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls on Bavarian-born Pope Benedict to make clear he did not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust in unusually strong words, which draws a sharp response from the Vatican.

-- 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.