Pope Benedict's chief spokesman baffled many yesterday by insisting that the pontiff had never been in the Hitler Youth group, despite the Pope's own biography saying he was a member, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The Pope was never in the Hitler Youth, never, never, never,'' Father Federico Lombardi said at a Jerusalem press conference. He later retracted his statement and stressed that the Pope was enrolled against his will and never supported the Nazi Party.
"This fact of the Hitler Youth had no role in his life and in his personality," Lombardi said. The pontiff—who was drafted into the German army in 1943—has come under fire for failing to mention Germany, the Nazis, or his own wartime experiences in a speech he gave about the Holocaust earlier this week, although some Jewish leaders have come to his defense.