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Praise for Jews at Pope Benedict's birthday bash

    Pope Benedict has paid tribute to the influence of the Bavarian Jewish community at a celebration marking his 85th birthday.

    The pope was joined by his brother as well as political and religious leaders at Monday's event, which also marked his seventh year at the Vatican.

    In remarks at the event, the Catholic leader highlighted how the Jewish community in his home state had brought him "closer emotionally to the Jewish people".

    Pope Benedict is the first German-born pope since the Holocaust and when he was chosen much was made of the fact that he had been a teenage member of the Hitler Youth and later served in an anti-aircraft unit in Munich.

    His record has been mixed, with criticism for his decision to rescind the excommunication of the Holocaust-denying Bishop, Richard Williamson and his support for the canonisation of wartime Pope Pius XII. But he has won praise for other moves, including writing a book that rejected the idea that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus's death.

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