World Jewish Congress praises relations with Catholics

Head speaks of Francis's 'excellent' role

28 October, 19:01

    World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder

    (by Elisa Pinna).  ROME - Relations between Catholics and Jews ''have never been better'', said World Jewish Congress (WJC) leader Ronald Lauder on Wednesday.

    Lauder met with Pope Francis on Wednesday morning as part of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the declaration with which the Second Vatican Council revolutionized relations between Jews and other non-Christian religions. Contributing to a climate of collaboration and understanding - added the Jewish representative - is the ''excellent role'' played by Pope Francis. During the private meeting that he had with a small WJC delegation on Wednesday morning, the pope said ''very important words'', Lauder said. Pope Francis, Lauder added, ''told us that attacking Jews is anti-Semitism, as is a deliberate attack on the State of Israel.

    (Pope) Francis added that we can disagree with the various (Israeli) governments, but that the State of Israel has the right to exist in prosperity and security.'' The Jewish leader also complained of the many heads of state that deny being anti-Semitic but say that they are anti-Israeli, ''as if Martians lived in Israel''.

    On the issue of conflict in the Middle East, Lauder said that ''this is the right time for Palestinians and Israelis to resume talks, as soon as possible and without any pre-conditions.'' ''There is no doubt that without the two-state solution there will not be peace,'' he added in a press conference in Rome. In his view, both Israeli president Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas are ready to resume talks. Lauder said that he had had contact with both recently. ''I cannot tell you,'' he told journalists, ''that the talks will resume. I can only say that they could and should resume soon'', if not in Paris - which Lauder said Abbas seems to rule out - then perhaps Vienna. The Jewish leader did not want to comment on the Israeli prime minister's words on the Jerusalem Grand Mufti's responsibility for the Holocaust. I do not know why he said those words and I do not have any information to make a judgment on,'' he said. Lauder chaired a two-day meeting in Rome of 150 Jewish representatives from around the world. The World Jewish Congress represents 100 countries in the world and 14.2 million Jews. On Wednesday morning, WJC delegates took part in the pope's general audience at St Peter's Square. Later a small WJC delegation led by Lauder met for about 30 minutes with Pope Francis. (ANSAmed).

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