"Pope of Reconciliation" Hailed at Jewish-Catholic Meeting

2-Day Summit in Paris a First of Its Kind

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PARIS, JAN. 29, 2002 (Zenit.org).- At the first summit of its kind of leaders of Catholicism and Judaism, a Jewish speaker described John Paul II as «the Pope of reconciliation» between members of the two faiths.

In his opening address, delivered at the Paris Town Hall, Henri Hajdenberg, former president of the European Jewish Council, said that John Paul II «has understood the dimension of the two most important events of the 20th century for the Jewish people: the Holocaust and the rebirth of the state of Israel.»

The meeting, moderated by Hajdenberg himself, served to analyze the evolution of Judeo-Catholic relations since the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, during John Paul II´s pontificate.

The European Jewish Council was the principal organizer of the meeting.

Among the participants were German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism; Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris; former Grand Rabbi Rene Samuel Sirat of France; and Grand Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of Moscow.

In a message to the participants, John Paul II said, «Youth needs our joint witness and commitment to believe, to sanctify life in the name of God, and to hope for a future world rich in promises.»

Some 900 people committed to the Judeo-Catholic dialogue attended the solemn opening session on Monday night. The evening ended with a homage to the pioneers of this dialogue, which began after World War II. The meeting ended today.

«We have arrived at a historical moment in which an authentic, 2,000-year uninterrupted dialogue can begin again,» said Cardinal Lustiger, who was born to a Jewish family of Polish origin.

The archbishop of Paris hoped that Christians and Jews would not be satisfied with resolving «the controversies that ceaselessly re-emerge,» but that they will go further to face together important theological questions for both, such as «sin, evil, suffering, being chosen, and redemption.»

Grand Rabbi Sirat, one of the religious leaders who read the final Assisi peace declaration on Jan. 24, appealed to the Jewish community to know how to take advantage of the «historic opportunity» that this dialogue implies.

«It is not the time to padlock the doors of the intellectual and spiritual ghetto in which some would like to have us live,» he said.

Michel Friedman, vice president of the European Jewish Council, emphasized the persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe and appealed to members of both faiths to work together to put an end to it.

For his part, the Grand Rabbi of Moscow said that the Pope «has begun to trace a way that might serve as a model for many others, religious or lay leaders, in Eastern Europe.»

To date, «a similar search for the historical and moral truth has not been seen since the fall of Communism, either in Russia or in the other post-Communist states,» he said.

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