JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday condemned a photomontage of Pope Benedict XVI with a swastika displayed on his chest which was published on a website run by supporters of her Kadima party, a close aide said.
Livni, who has been tasked with forming a new Israeli government after the resignation of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, asked for the image to be removed but distanced herself from the website, aide Amir Goldstein said.
"Tzipi Livni firmly condemns this photomontage and asked for it to be removed. The Yalla-Kadima site is private, independent and has nothing to do with the official Kadima party site," he said.
"As it happens, the image was swiftly removed from the site," Goldstein said, adding that the Israeli foreign ministry had contacted the Vatican to voice its condemnation.
One of the owners of unofficial site, Tziki Avissar, told public radio that the image was a way of "protesting against the Vatican's role during the Nazi genocide" in the face of the "shocking" support shown by Benedict for the beatification of his wartime predecessor Pius XII.
The pope has insisted Pius spared no effort in the defence of the persecuted but often acted in silence, and earlier this month he praised his predecessor's memory on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Earlier on Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres said a mooted visit to Israel by Benedict should not be tied to the controversy over Pius's failure to speak out during the Holocaust.
The last time a pope visited the Holy Land was in March 2000, when Pope John Paul II made a historic five-day pilgrimage to Christian sites in Jerusalem, Nazareth and the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
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