CBNNews.com - ROME - Haifa Chief Rabbi She'ar Yishuv Cohen made history Monday as the first Jew to address the Vatican's Synod of Bishops.
Haifa's chief rabbi serves on the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's Commission for Relations with the Vatican.
Rabbi Cohen, who was asked to speak on the centrality of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) to Jewish life, said he didn't know that his visit coincided with the 50-year memorial honoring Pope Pius XII, who served during the Nazi reign of terror.
During an interview prior to his address, the rabbi said that as leader of the Catholic Church, the wartime pope should have played a more active role in condemning the atrocities of World War II.
"We feel that the late pope [PIUS] should have spoken up much more strongly than he did," the 80-year-old rabbi told reporters prior to his address.
"He may have helped in secrecy many of the victims and many of the refugees, but the question is, 'Could he have raised his voice and would it have helped or not?'" Rabbi Cohen said.
"We, as the victims feel [that the answer is] yes," the rabbi said, adding that "God is the Judge -- He knows the truth."
Later, during his address, Rabbi Cohen referred anonymously to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Without naming him, he spoke of "the terrible and vicious words" by "the president of a certain state in the Middle East" at last month's United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan.
"He says he wants to annihilate Israel and destroy it. The problem in the days of the Second World War was that people didn't believe that what Adolf Hitler was saying, he really meant to fulfill," he said.
"Unfortunately, we had the Holocaust and I am sure that if we have a painful memory, it is because we don't feel that enough was done by the leadership of the religions in the world and other powerful leaders to stop it at that time. We expect them to do it today," the rabbi said.
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post