- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2010

VATICAN CITY

Pope defends Pius, visits synagogue

ROME | In a synagogue visit haunted by history, Pope Benedict XVI and Jewish leaders sparred Sunday over the record of the World War II-era pope during the Holocaust and agreed on the need to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations.

Both sides said the visit to the seat of the oldest Jewish community in the diaspora was an occasion to overcome what Benedict called “every misconception and prejudice.”

Signs of the Jewish community’s tragic history were abundant, as the German-born Benedict stopped at a plaque marking where Roman Jews were rounded up by the Nazis in 1943 and at another marking the slaying of a 2-year-old boy in an attack by Palestinian terrorists on the synagogue in 1982. A handful of death-camp survivors wore striped scarves to symbolize the camp uniform.

Benedict defended his predecessor Pius XII against critics, telling the audience that the Vatican worked quietly to save Jews from the Nazis during World War II.

Many Jews object to Benedict moving Pius toward sainthood, contending the wartime pope didn’t do enough to protect Jews from the Holocaust. The Vatican has maintained that Pius used behind-the-scenes diplomacy in a bid to save Jewish lives.

While he didn’t mention Pius by name, Benedict told Jewish leaders in the synagogue that the Vatican “itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.”

Benedict said Catholics acted courageously to save Jews even as their extermination “tragically reached as far as Rome.”

He spoke shortly after Jewish Community President Riccardo Pacifici, whose grandparents were killed at Auschwitz while his father was saved by Italian nuns in a Florence convent, criticized Pius. Mr. Pacifici said Italian Catholics worked to save Jews but the “silence” of Pius “still hurts as a failed action.”

Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni later told the packed synagogue that “human silence … doesn’t escape judgment.”

Several prominent Jews had said they would boycott, but Benedict received warm applause throughout the 90-minute visit. The temple sits in the Old Jewish Ghetto, the Rome neighborhood near the Tiber where for hundreds of years Jews were confined under the orders of a 16th- century pope.

SPAIN

Politician’s photo used for bin Laden image

MADRID | A Spanish politician says he was “stupefied” by the FBI’s decision to use his photograph to compose its latest image of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and is considering taking legal action.

“Firstly, I will ask the FBI for an explanation, which they haven’t given me yet, and then I will reserve the right to take legal action,” Gaspar Llamazares told CNN Saturday.

Mr. Llamazares is a former leader of Spain’s communist party Izquierda Unida and is currently its parliamentary spokesman.

An FBI agent said the organization was aware of similarities between the image — an “age-progressed photograph” intended to give an updated idea of bin Laden’s appearance — and that of “an existing photograph of a Spanish public official.”

Special agent Jason Pack said a forensic artist had been unable to find suitable features from the FBI’s database of photographs and used a picture from the Internet instead.

A spokesman for the Spanish prime minister’s office said a Spanish official had suggested to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid that it contact Mr. Llamazares to explain the matter. William Ostic, the embassy’s councilor for public affairs, told Reuters news agency that he telephoned Mr. Llamazares on Saturday to apologize for the error.

BRITAIN

Newton’s encounter with apple goes online

LONDON | An 18th-century account of how a falling piece of fruit helped Isaac Newton develop the theory of gravity is being posted to the Web, making scans of the fragile paper manuscript widely available to the public for the first time.

Newton’s encounter with an apple ranks among science’s most celebrated anecdotes, and Britain’s Royal Society said it was making the documents available online Monday.

Royal Society librarian Keith Moore said the apple story has managed to keep its polish in part because it packs in so much — an illustration of how modern science works, an implicit reference to the solar system and even an allusion to the Bible.

When Newton describes the process of observing a falling apple and guessing at the principle behind it “he’s talking about the scientific method,” Mr. Moore said.

“Also the shape of the apple recalls the planet — it’s round — and of course the apple falling from the tree does indeed hark back to the story of Adam and Eve, and Newton as a religious man would have found that quite apt.”

The incident occurred in the mid-1660s, when Newton retreated to his family home in northern England after an outbreak of the plague closed the University of Cambridge, where he had been studying.

The Royal Society’s manuscript, written by Newton’s contemporary William Stukeley, recounts a spring afternoon in 1726 when the famous scientist shared the story over tea “under the shade of some apple trees.”

“He told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind,” Stukeley wrote.

“It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself. … Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.”

Stukeley’s account joins the long-lost notes of Newton’s 17th-century scientific rival Robert Hooke on the Royal Society’s Web site.

Users can flip through both documents using the same page-turning software used to browse Leonardo’s sketches and Jane Austen’s early work on the British Library’s site.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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