VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2005 ( Benedict XVI told a delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations of his intention to promote interreligious relations and to condemn all forms of anti-Semitism.

The 24-member delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) was headed by Rabbi Israel Singer of New York, the committee president.

The delegation included Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, and Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni of Rome.

The Pope recalled that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council declaration "Nostra Aetate," "whose teaching has served as the basis of the Church's relationship with the Jewish people since then."

"The Council affirmed the Church's conviction that, in the mystery of the divine election, the beginnings of her faith are already to be found in Abraham, Moses and the Prophets," the Holy Father said today.

"On the basis of this spiritual patrimony and the teaching of the Gospel, it called for greater mutual understanding and esteem between Christians and Jews and deplored all manifestations of hatred, persecution and anti-Semitism," he added.

"At the very beginning of my pontificate," the Bishop of Rome said in his address delivered in English, "I wish to assure you that the Church remains firmly committed, in her catechesis and in every aspect of her life, to implementing this decisive teaching.

"In the years following the Council, my predecessors Pope Paul VI and, in a particular way, Pope John Paul II, took significant steps towards improving relations with the Jewish people. It is my intention to continue on this path."

Moral imperative

The Pope continued: "The history of relations between our two communities has been complex and often painful, yet I am convinced that the spiritual patrimony treasured by Christian and Jews is itself the source of the wisdom and inspiration capable of guiding us toward a future of hope in accordance with the divine plan.

"At the same time, remembrance of the past remains for both communities a moral imperative and a source of purification in our efforts to pray and work for reconciliation, justice, respect for human dignity and for that peace which is ultimately a gift from the Lord himself."

"Of its very nature this imperative must include a continued reflection on the profound historical, moral and theological questions presented by the experience of the Shoah," the Holocaust, Benedict XVI added.

During the past 35 years the IJCIC has met with delegations of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews 18 times, including the most recent meeting, in Buenos Aires last July, devoted to the theme "Justice and Charity."

A high-level Jewish delegation is scheduled to attend a commemorative event next Oct. 27 at the Vatican to mark the 40th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate."