What the pope said and didnt say

Sunday's pronouncement by Pope John Paul II was meant to heal rifts between the Catholic Church and other religions, especially Judaism. But the reaction once again proves that Catholics and Jews are still far apart in their understanding of one another.

Only hours after he delivered the solemn apology for Catholic misdeeds over the past 2,000 years, a number of Jewish leaders expressed frustration that the pope did not single out the Holocaust.

Many Catholic leaders are aghast at the Jewish reaction. They view the pope's penitence as unprecedented. In their eyes, the church did no wrong and has nothing to apologize for.

In fact, many cardinals and church leaders tried to convince the pope not to issue his apology on Sunday. But he would not be dissuaded.

So why didn't the pope include the Vatican's silence during the Holocaust along with the other church errors that he cited? He apologized for the church's religious intolerance and injustice toward women, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the poor and the unborn. Among the worse misdeeds of the Catholic Church, he mentioned the Inquisition, the forced conversions of native peoples in Africa and Latin America, and the Crusades, which claimed Jewish as well as Muslim victims.

Overall, the pope's speech was broad rather than narrow. And it wasn't aimed just at Jews, but at people of all religions. Perhaps the reason he didn't specifically mention the Holocaust is that two years ago the church issued a "call to penitence" on behalf of Catholics who remained silent during the Shoah. It's quite possible that the pope didn't see a need to talk about the Holocaust again in the latest speech, since it dealt with much broader issues.

But from a Jewish perspective, not mentioning the Holocaust is more than an oversight.

There may be no right or wrong on this issue, which shows a continued communication problem between Jews and Catholics. Let's hope with the pope's visit to Israel next week, a deeper understanding will result.