Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Dialogue between the Catholic Church and Jews is "necessary and possible," and the pope hopes that his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, expected to take place in May, can contribute to this, "so that Jews and Christians and also Muslims may live in peace and harmony in this Holy Land." During his trip, "my intention is to pray especially for the precious gift of unity and peace both within the region and for the worldwide human family." Benedict XVI made these remarks today at an audience with a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and from the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
To the Jewish rabbis received today, after "suspending" relations with the Catholic Church following the events involving the Holocaust denier bishop Williamson, which led to a two-week delay in the regular meeting with the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, the pope expressed his gratitude and desire to renew "my personal commitment to advancing the vision set out for coming generations in the Second Vatican Council's declaration Nostra Aetate." Also today, Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude to the Jews in a letter to the bishops of the whole world made public today, where he pointed out that "our Jewish friends" have understood better than many Catholics the meaning of the lifting of excommunication for the Lefebvrists.
"The Church," says the pope, "recognizes that the beginnings of her faith are found in the historical divine intervention in the life of the Jewish people and that here our unique relationship has its foundation." "Christians gladly acknowledge that their own roots are found in the same self-revelation of God, in which the religious experience of the Jewish people is nourished." Referring to the progress made in recent years during the previous seven meetings between the Chief Rabbinate and the Vatican commission, the pope highlighted that "you have become increasingly aware of the common values which stand at the basis of our respective religious traditions. You have reflected on the sanctity of life, family values, social justice and ethical conduct, the importance of the word of God expressed in Holy Scriptures for society and education, the relationship between religious and civil authority and the freedom of religion and conscience."
For the Rabbinate, today's encounter with the pope "marks a positive change in the renewal of dialogue between us." The statement was made by chief rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, stressing the "clear and unequivocal statements condemning denial of the Holocaust" made by the pope. The rabbi also expressed his "profound concern about the clearly anti-Semitic nature of the text proposed for the UN conference" on racism, Durban 2. The pope was asked for open criticism of the statement from the Vatican. "We appreciate," he said, "the constructive role of the Vatican observer in the attempt to resist the distorted declaration, and we hope that the Holy See will make its voice heard in deploring this attack on the Jewish state."