BONN — Pope John Paul II told German Jewish leaders this week that too few Roman Catholics had resisted the Nazi regime.
Making his first visit to Germany since reunification, the pope met in Berlin with members of the Central Council of Jews in Germany after he beatified two German priests who perished during World War II while opposing the Nazis.
"Not enough of the faithful followed the example of the courageous ones" who opposed Nazism, the pope told the Jewish leaders Sunday.
"Although many priests and lay people opposed this [Nazi] regime of terror, as historians have now shown, and many forms of resistance arose in people's daily lives, they were still too few," he said.
Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the German Jewish council, praised the 76-year-old pope for speaking out against anti-Semitism and for trying to aid Catholic-Jewish relations.
Bubis added that Jews were aware that during the Nazi era thousands of priests resisted and suffered severely as a result.
However, both the pope and the Jewish leaders skirted discussion of the controversial role of Pope Pius XII, who is widely accused of being silent while 6 million Jews perished.
Instead, Jewish participants in the meeting said they underlined the need to educate people about the horrors of the past and the example set by the few who resisted the Nazis.
During his visit, the pope himself appeared to want to avoid controversy with Jews and other critics of the church's role during the Holocaust by digressing on more than one occasion from his prepared remarks.
At Sunday's open air Mass in Berlin's Olympic Stadium, attended by some 120,000 people, the pope omitted a section that defended Pius XII.
On Saturday, while celebrating Mass in the town of Paderborn, the pope omitted a passage from his prepared statement that said that "the whole church" had put up resistance against the Nazis.
Such remarks were in contrast to a statement made last year by German bishops that lamented the "profound failure" of Catholics to oppose anti-Semitism during the Nazi era.
Asked to comment on the omissions, Bishop Karl Lehmann, head of the German bishop's conference, played down the issue.
"It really was a question of time," Lehmann said. "It was just a coincidence that these particular passages were left out."