On Wednesday afternoon Pope Francis received in the Vatican leaders of the World Jewish Congress. Given the observance of the Jewish New Year in a few days time, he wished them in Hebrew “Shana tova umetuka (Happy and Sweet New Year).”
“We gave the Pope a honey leicaj (cake), just as the Jewish tradition establishes; we must eat something sweet to wish a Happy and Sweet New Year,” said Claudio Epelman, director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, in statements to the Jewish News Agency.
For his part, Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), held a press conference on Thursday morning at the Foreign Press Association in Italy, in which he talked about the meeting with Pope Francis.
ZENIT asked him about the many reactions that the atrocities of the Islamic State is arousing, including in Muslim environments
“The whole world is silent; the problem is why?” answered Lauder, adding that “as Jews we know what happened when the world stayed silent. One of the reasons we came here is precisely to say: ‘the world must not stay silent.’”
During the press conference Lauder said: “I think that I can say with sincerity that the Jewish World Congress and Pope Francis are absolutely in agreement in condemning the attacks on Christians in the Middle East and in other regions of the world.”
He also commented that, privately, the Pope said to him that “at this point, he believes it’s a question of a Third World War. However, as opposed to the two previous ones, it is not unfolding in just one stage but in different moments.”
The Pope “also said to him privately that there is much suffering in the world; first it was your turn, now it is ours,” added the president of the WJC.
In other words, he continued, when the Jews suffered savage attacks, the world stayed silent. And now it’s the Christians who are being annihilated and again the world says too little.
He also mentioned that in August he wrote “an article in the New York Times entitled ‘Who Will Take on the Defense of Christians?’ And I asked the question: Why doesn’t the world react?”
“It’s easy to understand the disaster that occurs when the world stays silent. And this lesson was learned in Israel in the most tremendous way possible,” he concluded.
Lauder also showed the Arab letter Nun, “which means Nazareth, which means Christian, and it has been placed on the door of Christians’ homes to make them understand where they live. And it’s not different from the yellow star of David that the Nazis put on Jews to distinguish them from other people. Today the world can no longer allow itself the luxury of staying silent,” he stressed.
He ended the press conference by pointing out that, “all persons of the world who love freedom must join forces and say that this is unacceptable, that it’s immoral and can no longer be tolerated.”
“And when we were bidding one another farewell, the Pope said to me: ‘We Christians and you Jews must pray for peace in the world,’” added Lauder.