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Pope Reaches Out to Muslims, Jews; Draws More Criticism About Holocaust


Pope Benedict has prayed at the Western Wall, the place many Jews consider to be Judaism's holiest site. The pope is on his second day of a pilgrimage to Israel and has been meeting with officials of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions. The pontiff has encountered some controversy, early in his trip.

Pope Benedict visited Jerusalem's Temple Mount, early Tuesday, meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Palestinians' chief cleric.

His message to the Muslim cleric was not controversial: He recalled the common roots shared by Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Later, the pontiff walked to the Western Wall and said a prayer in Latin - the official language of the Roman Catholic Church - before inserting a note into the wall, as is the tradition.

In his prayer, the pontiff told God he is here, in Jerusalem, the city of peace. He said he brings to God the trials and suffering of all peoples and he prayed for peace.

He addressed his prayer to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, biblical patriarchs recognized by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

The pope's efforts to build bridges with members of other religions have met challenges, early in the trip.

A meeting with Jewish and Muslim leaders in East Jerusalem was disrupted late Monday when a prominent Palestinian Muslim cleric, Sheikh Tasir al-Tamimi delivered an angry speech condemning Israel's attacks on Palestinians and what he calls Israeli desecration of Jerusalem's holy sites.

The cleric accused Israelis of killing innocent Palestinians and attacking their mosques - all with what he said was the blessing of their rabbis.

Tamimi appealed to the pope to condemn what he says are Israeli crimes against Palestinians and to persuade the Israeli government to stop its aggression on the Palestinian people.

The outburst drew a protest from Israel's Chief Rabbinate, which said it would not take part in discussions as long as the cleric was present.

Pope Benedict's visit to the Western Wall on Tuesday was yet another attempt to reach out to Jews, many of whom harbor resentment for the persecution they suffered - sometimes at the hands of Christians - over the centuries.

Monday, the Pope paid tribute to the six million Jews who were murdered by German Nazis during the Second World War. Some Israeli politicians later criticized the pontiff, who is German, for not personally apologizing for the Holocaust.

The pope's agenda on Tuesday includes celebrating a Mass in front of thousands of people in East Jerusalem.

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