Pope Francis welcomed more than 100 leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Wednesday and issued a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism. At a private audience with WJC President Ronald S. Lauder in the morning, the pontiff made it clear that outright attacks against Israel’s existence are a form of anti-Semitism.
“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism. There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity, ” Pope Francis told Lauder and his delegation.
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Jews and Catholics today marked the anniversary of the 1965 declaration Nostra Aetate, which condemned anti-Semitism and completely transformed and improved relations between Jews and Catholics.
Recalling Nostra Aetate, a declaration adopted on 28 October 1965 by the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis told the crowd in the square: “Indifference and opposition were transformed into cooperation and benevolence. Enemies and strangers have become friends and brothers. The Council, with the declaration Nostra Aetate, paved the way. It said yes to the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity, and no to any form of anti-Semitism and condemnation of any insult, discrimination and persecution derived from that.”
The World Jewish Congress has urged the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to return to direct peace negotiations without preconditions as soon as possible. Jewish leaders from several dozen countries also called on the international community to maintain, and if necessary expand, sanctions against Iran pending verification of compliance with the nuclear agreement reached with the p5+1 group of nations.
The Board also called on the international community to maintain and, if necessary, expand sanctions on Iran until there is verification and international acceptance of Iran’s compliance with all the conditions of the nuclear deal.
Concerning the refugee crisis, the delegates passed a resolution calling on the international community to provide refugees with sanctuary irrespective of origin or religion, recalling the Talmudic maxim that says, “He who saves a single life saves the whole world.”