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 CNS Story:

BODHIEDERMAN Apr-19-2008 (350 words) xxxn

Pope's visit shows 'how far we've come,' Jewish New Yorker says

By Angelo Stagnaro
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's visit to a U.S. synagogue "is symbolic of how far we've come," according to a Jewish New Yorker and German-American.

Ted Bodhiederman, 62, was among those waiting for Pope Benedict before his April 18 visit to St. Joseph's Church in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, the last bastion of Teutonic heritage in New York.

Before coming to St. Joseph's for an ecumenical prayer service, Pope Benedict stopped at Park East Synagogue, becoming the first pope to visit a Jewish place of worship in the United States.

"I'm glad the pope met with Rabbi (Arthur) Schneier at the Park East Synagogue," Bodhiederman told Catholic News Service. "It's bringing our two religions together. I know it.

"Interreligious dialogue is important especially at a time when people are giving religion a bad name," he continued. "We have to develop connections between us. We have to respect each other."

Surrounded by sunglasses-clad Secret Service personnel and dance troupe members dressed in lederhosen and dirndl, Bodhiederman joked with CNS, saying, "I bet you're surprised that I know something about the Catholic Church."

The son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, Bodhiederman said he realized that "there is going to be bitter resentment because of the horror of the Holocaust," an apparent reference to critics who claim Pope Pius XII did not do enough to help the Jews.

"I understand this" resentment, he said. "But I'm proud that he (Pope Benedict) is coming here and meeting with the Jewish community."

Bodhiederman said Pope Pius XII "did what he could to protect Jews in Italy and elsewhere," adding, "Pope John XXIII and Paul VI really reached out to Jews and I'm glad for that."

He said it was "simply wonderful" that Pope Benedict met with the Jewish community in both Washington and New York.

"He's trying to tell the Jewish community that he wants a new understanding," he said. "And that he came for Passover is highly significant."

END


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