Jewish Representative Hails Pope's Contribution to Interfaith Dialogue

Delegates of an American Committee Have Papal Audience

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2004 ( The president of the American Jewish Committee praised the decisive contribution John Paul II has made to the Jewish-Catholic dialogue in his 25-year pontificate.

At a papal audience granted to members of the committee, its president Harold Tanner mentioned the most significant steps taken by the Pope: his visit to the Synagogue in Rome in 1986, as well as his visit to Israel in 2000 “after the establishment of full relations between the Holy See and the Jewish state.”

That 2000 visit “was a most powerful testimony of the genuine transformation of the Church’s relationship with the Jewish People,” Tanner said.

The American Jewish Committee president added that he also “profoundly” appreciated “your manifold statements on the unique relationship between our two faiths and your description of the Jewish people as the Church’s dearly beloved elder of the unbroken and eternal Covenant.”

Official delegations of the Jewish committee have been received in Rome by the Holy Father on four occasions, and the committee’s representatives have met with him at other times.

“You have also been particularly forthright in condemning all prejudice and bigotry especially anti-Semitism,” Tanner said.

“We know that this is not coincidental to your own persona, background and experience and you have emphasized that we must work devotedly to ensure that the memory of the Shoah [Holocaust] and its implications for humanity at large, are studied and taught to future generations,” he continued.

“But because we bear the wounds of this particular experience, we are of course especially perturbed these days by the present wave of anti-Semitic expression and violence,” Tanner said. “We therefore are particularly grateful to you for the categorical statements of the Holy See condemning this perversity.”

“In this regard,” he continued, “we are especially horrified by the way religion has been abused in the Middle East and around the world, to justify and even glorify the killing of innocents. We are grateful for your powerful statements condemning violence in the name of religion, and we pray that the world at large will listen and recognize the truth of your words.”

Tanner expressed his gratitude for the testimony of the Church in the United States.

“I believe it true to say that no Jewish community at any time and in any place has enjoyed the degree of warm friendship and collegial cooperation that we have enjoyed with the Catholic Church in America,” he said.

The American Jewish Committee ( says its mission has three essential elements:

— “to safeguard the welfare and security of Jews in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world”;

— “to strengthen the basic principles of pluralism around the world, as the best defense against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry”;

— “to enhance the quality of American Jewish life by helping to ensure Jewish continuity and deepen ties between American and Israeli Jews.”

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