The Vatican has blundered into another public relations fiasco after seeking to rewrite the biography of Pope Benedict XVI by denying that he was ever a member of the Hitler Youth.
The controversy is playing out during the Pope’s current visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Pope, affectionately known as “THE ROTTWEILER”, presumably because of his sweet and compassionate nature has come into criticism for not being sufficiently sympathetic to Jews that suffered during the Nazi holocaust.
Although the 82-year-old German pontiff has admitted in numerous interviews that he was drafted unwillingly into the Nazi youth movement towards the end of the war, his spokesman came up with another bizarre version.
The Pope was never in the Hitler Youth, never, never, never,” Father Federico Lombardi, chief spokesman for the Pope, told a press conference in Jerusalem.
But Father Lombardi’s comments contradicted statements the Pope himself has made.
In the 1996 book “Salt of the Earth”, the Pope told Peter Seewald, a German journalist:
“At first we weren’t, but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later, as a seminarian, I was registered in the HY. As soon as I was out of the seminary I never went back.”
In clarifying his suggestion that the Pope had not been a member of the Hitler Youth, Father Lombardi said he had intended to dispute suggestions in the Israeli media that the Pope had been “an enthusiastic Nazi as a boy.”
“This fact of the Hitler Youth had no role in his life and in his personality,” Father Lombardi said.
The puzzling claim about the Pope’s membership of the Hitler Youth is the Vatican’s third stumble this year.
In January he caused outrage when he lifted the excommunication of a renegade British Catholic bishop, Richard Williamson, who denied the extent of the Holocaust.
Two months later he was criticised by governments, NGOs and health experts when he said during his first papal visit to Africa that condoms can “aggravate” the Aids crisis.