Israelis and Palestinians were united on Monday in lamenting the announced resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
The 85-year-old pontiff stated that after eight years at the helm of the Catholic Church, his deteriorating physical condition simply would not permit him to adequately continue performing his duties.
Born Joseph Ratzinger of Bavaria, Germany, Israelis and Jews worldwide were initially wary of his adolescent Nazi affiliations.
But Israeli political and religious leaders on Monday hailed Benedict XVI for having faithfully continued efforts toward Jewish-Christian reconciliations began in earnest by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
"I greatly appreciate him for his immense activity to interfaith connection that has contributed greatly to the reduction of anti-Semitism in the world," said Israeli Chief Rabbi (Ashkenazi) Yona Metzger.
President Shimon Peres added that under Benedict XVI's leadership, "the Vatican has been a clear voice against racism and anti-Semitism and a clear voice for peace. Relations between Israel and the Vatican are the best they have ever been and the positive dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people is a testament to his belief in dialogue and cooperation."
Palestinians, too, were sorry to see Pope Benedict XVI go, but for different reasons.
"We want the representative of the Holy See to be supportive of the marginalised, of the downtrodden and in this case, the Palestinians who are living under a brutal Israeli occupation [sic]," a Palestinian Christian political activist told The Sydney Morning Herald.
For most Palestinians, Benedict XVI was that pope. Especially after the Vatican openly supported last November's bid by the Palestinian Authority to upgrade its status at the UN to that of a non-member observer state, the same status enjoyed by the Holy See.
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