Pope Francis met on Monday with a delegation from the Conference of European Rabbis, marking the first such meeting since the conference was founded nearly six decades ago.
The encounter came ahead of the 50th anniversary of the “Nostra Aetate” a declaration by the Catholic Church in which it defined its position toward other religions, particularly Judaism.
“For almost fifty years, the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community has progressed in a systematic way, ” Pope Francis said.
“Anti-Semitic trends in Europe these days are troubling, as are certain acts of hatred and violence, ” he added. “Every Christian must be firm in deploring all forms of anti-Semitism, and in showing their solidarity with the Jewish people.”
The Nostra Aetate, which was proclaimed in 1965, describes the Jews as the people that “God holds most dear.” It also states that the death of Jesus “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today”.
The delegation of 30 rabbis was headed by Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is the conference’s president as well as the chief rabbi of Moscow.
Goldschmidt said interfaith dialogue is “particularly relevant in the wake of recent attacks on the Jewish communities of Europe and the Catholic communities in Africa and the Middle East, ”.
The conference, which represents around 700 Orthodox rabbis across the continent, was founded in 1956.