At noon today, the Holy Father received 30 members of the delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. The Pope recalled that 21 previous meetings have helped to strengthen the mutual understanding and ties of friendship between Jews and Catholics.
This was Pope Francis' first official meeting with a group of representatives of Jewish organizations and communities since his election. The pontiff said that the 'Nostra Aetate' Declaration of the Second Vatican Council represents “a key point of reference for relations with the Jewish people” for the Catholic Church.
“In that Council text, the Church recognizes that 'the beginnings of its faith and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses, and prophets'. And, with regard to the Jews, the Council recalls the teaching of Saint Paul, who wrote 'the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable' and who also firmly condemned hatred, persecution, and all forms of anti-Semitism. Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!”
The Holy Father noted that “the fundamental principles expressed by the Declaration have marked the path of greater awareness and mutual understanding trodden these last decades by Jews and Catholics, a path which my predecessors have strongly encouraged, both by very significant gestures and by the publication of a series of documents to deepen the thinking about the theological roots of the relations between Jews and Christians.”
Nevertheless, this represents “only the most visible element of a vast movement that takes place on the local level a bit throughout the world, as I know from personal experience. During my ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I had the joy of maintaining relations of sincere friendship with leaders of the Jewish world. We talked often of our respective religious identities, the image of the human person found in the Scriptures, and how to keep an awareness of God alive in a world now secularized in many ways. I met with them on various occasions to discuss the common challenges faced by both Jews and Christians. But above all, as friends, we enjoyed each other’s company, we were mutually enriched through encounter and dialogue, with an attitude of reciprocal welcome, and this helped all of us grow as persons and as believers.”
“These friendly relations are, in a way, the basis for the development of a more official dialogue,” the Pope said, encouraging those present to follow their path, “trying, as you do so, to involve younger generations. Humanity needs our joint witness in favour of respect for the dignity of man and woman created in the image and likeness of God and in favour of the peace that is, above all, God’s gift.”
Pope Francis concluded his address by recalling the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—affirms the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”