VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2009 ( Benedict XVI calls dialogue with Jews not only possible, but necessary, due to the common spiritual heritage shared by the two faiths.

The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.

Speaking in English, the Pontiff underlined the importance of the dialogue between the two bodies, which began as a result of "the historical visit of my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land in March 2000."

"During these seven years not only has the friendship between the Commission and the Chief Rabbinate increased, but you have also been able to reflect on important themes which are relevant to the Jewish and Christian traditions alike," the Holy Father said.

The Pontiff called dialogue between the two faiths "necessary and possible" as the two "recognize a common rich spiritual patrimony."

"Working together you have become increasingly aware of the common values which stand at the basis of our respective religious traditions, studying them during the seven meetings held either here in Rome or in Jerusalem," Benedict XVI explained.

He continued: "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.
<br>"In the common declarations released after every meeting, the views which are rooted in both our respective religious convictions have been highlighted, while the differences of understanding have also been acknowledged."

Chosen people

"The Church 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," the Pope said. "The Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family, knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God.

"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."

Benedict XVI also noted that he is preparing to travel this May "as a pilgrim" to the Holy Land.

"My intention," he said, "is to pray especially for the precious gift of unity and peace both within the region and for the worldwide human family."

The Pontiff added, "May my visit also help to deepen the dialogue of the Church with the Jewish people so that Jews and Christians and also Muslims may live in peace and harmony in this Holy Land."