(JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI met with leaders of Germany’s Jewish community while on a visit to his homeland.
Benedict, who arrived Thursday in Berlin to visit his native Germany for the third time since becoming pope, met the Jewish leaders in a closed-door meeting in the Reichstag after addressing the German parliament. The meeting lasted about 25 minutes.
Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the meeting "an impulse for a new closeness" between the two faiths.
According to news reports, Benedict emphasized in the meeting that he believes Christians must recognize their profound connection with Judaism.
"In a world where, at least in Europe, the strength of faith is unfortunately weak and appears to be growing less popular, we have to focus even more on common goals and interests, and still more on what unites us now and always will," Benedict said, according to a report in the FAZ.net online newspaper.
Benedict was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teenager. He has come under fire from the Jewish community for his work to beatify Pope Pius XII, the wartime pope who many accuse of no doing enough to defend Jews from the Nazis.
In 2005, Benedict met with Jewish leaders in Cologne, and delivered the first address ever delivered by a Pope in a German synagogue.