Pope Reaches Out to Youths, Other Faiths
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Coming up, legal problems for Kentucky's governor. Or is it all just politics?
But first, Pope Benedict XVI continues to reach out to members of other faiths and young people today, meeting leaders of Germany's Muslim community. On Friday, he visited a synagogue and met with Christian leaders. The new pope has vowed to pursue the path chartered by his charismatic predecessor, John Paul II, but he is beginning to leave a style all his own. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us from Cologne.
Sylvia, thanks very much for being with us.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI reporting:
Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: And I think a lot of us remember the really extraordinary rapport that John Paul seemed to have with crowds of young people. Tell us something about how Benedict is being received by the crowds of young Catholic pilgrims there in Cologne.
POGGIOLI: Well, you know, Benedict the German theologian is a lot less comfortable in the limelight than John Paul II was. But he seems to have adapted quite well to the incredible enthusiasm of the crowds here, the crowds of kids have been flocking to Cologne, although he didn't hesitate to try to silence them when they were drowning out his speech. He's more intellectual and less less likely to encourage the development of a cult of personality around him. But so far, the kids I've talked to are extremely happy to get a chance to see the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
SIMON: Yesterday Benedict became just the second pope in 2000 years to visit a Jewish house of worship. How was he received? What was that visit like?
POGGIOLI: Oh, it was extraordinary. Here we had a German pope who grew up under the Nazis, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teen-ager. He came to visit the oldest Jewish community in Germany in a rebuilt synagogue that had been destroyed by the Nazis in the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. Benedict here warned of rising anti-Semitism, and he vowed to further strengthen Jewish-Catholic relations. But some people were surprised by the absence in his speech of any mention of his own personal experience during Nazism or any reference to the actions of the Catholic Church during that period. And he also did not respond to a request to open up the Vatican's World War II archives to shed light on the period of the Holocaust.
SIMON: Germany, of course, in earlier time was the birthplace of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. How did the pope's meetings with Protestant leadership go?
POGGIOLI: But the mood was very, very polite yesterday when Benedict met with other Christian leaders, and he assured them of his desire to improve relations. But there are still quite a few sharp differences. A Protestant bishop urged Benedict to consider allowing women clergy and joint Communion, but those are two reforms that the pope has firmly opposed. And in his speech, Benedict insisted `full unity and full Catholicism go together,' and I don't think that's going to be too encouraging for either Protestants or Orthodox.
SIMON: When Pope Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he voiced opposition to Turkey's membership in the European Community. Is that something that's going to weigh on his meeting later today with Muslim leaders?
POGGIOLI: Well, today's meeting could be more strained than the ones with Jews and Protestants. Benedict has stressed that there's no clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity, and he's likely to urge joint action against religious fanaticism. But he's known to want reciprocity, recognition of religious freedom for Christians and other religious minorities, which today does not exist in many majority Islamic countries. This is certainly not an issue that can be resolved here in Cologne. But if he does raise it, it could be a sign of the line his papacy is going to take toward Islam.
SIMON: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Cologne. Thanks very much.
POGGIOLI: Thank you, Scott.