Pope Francis met with a 30 member delegation from the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) during a private audience held at the Vatican Apostolic Palace on Monday. The committee is dedicated to furthering dialogue and developing relations with various international religious bodies such as the Holy See’s Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, the Orthodox Christian Church, and the World Council of Churches.
Addressing the members as his “elder brothers and sisters”, Pope Francis welcomed them to the Vatican, which concluded a series of meetings between the Jewish committee and the Catholic Church aimed at fostering dialogue.
“The twenty-one meetings held until today have certainly helped to reinforce mutual understanding and the links of friendship between Jews and Catholics,” the Holy Father said. “I know that you are preparing the next meeting in October in Madrid and that it will have as its theme Challenges to Faith in Contemporary Society. Thank you for your commitment to this!”
While saying that he has had meetings with important figures in the Jewish world, the Holy Father acknowledged that this was the first time he has met with an official group of representatives of Jewish organizations and communities.
The Holy Father recalled a key point regarding relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people from Vatican II declaration “Nostra Aetate”.
“In that Council text, the Church recognizes that ‘the beginnings of its faith and election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and prophets’,” the Pope said. “And, with regard to the Jews, the Council recalls the teaching of Saint Paul, who wrote ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ and who also firmly condemned hatred, persecution and all forms of anti-Semitism.”
“Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!”, the Pope exclaimed.
The Holy Father went on to say that the declaration paved the way for a mutual understanding between the two faiths that have deepened their relationship. Recalling his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis recounted the sincere friendships he developed with leaders of the Jewish community in Argentina, saying that it helped “all of us grow as people and as believers.”
Concluding his address, the Holy Father encouraged the committee to not only continue on their path of interreligious dialogue but to also involve younger generations. “Humanity needs our joint witness in favor of respect for the dignity of man and woman created in the image and likeness of God, and in favour of peace which is above all God’s gift,” the Pope said.