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Vatican official: Mideast trip could help relations

ROME (JTA) — A papal trip to the Holy Land would be a decisive step in overcoming the problems that still dog Catholic-Jewish relations, a senior Vatican official said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with Jews, made his remarks in an interview Wednesday in the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

The Vatican has said that a papal trip to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories may still take place in 2009 despite the current violence in Gaza.

Kasper said progress had been made in Jewish-Catholic relations over the past year but "there is no lack of problems." He underscored two issues in particular: the reintroduction of a "prayer for the Jews" into the Good Friday liturgy and the continuing controversy over the role of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust.

"I’m convinced then that the pope’s hoped-for trip to the Holy Land would be decisive to overcome prejudice and incomprehension that mark our relations with Judaism," he said.

The Vatican has begun the process leading to the beatification of Pius, which would put him on the road to sainthood. Some Jews and other critics have called for a freeze on this process until controversy over whether or not Pius turned a blind eye to the Holocaust can be resolved.

"The Jewish world has understood and accepted that (Pius’) beatification is an internal process of the Catholic Church," Kasper said. "We trust now that historic research will bring even more clarity about Pius XII’s work to help Jews during the years in question."

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