(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday said Jews and Christians can continue to cooperate together “for the good of the peoples of our time” and work for peace together – especially in the Holy Land and the Middle East. Speaking to representatives of B'nai B'rith International, a Jewish organization that sponsors cultural programs and promotes religious tolerance and international cooperation, the Pope recalled the landmark Vatican II declaration, Nostra Aetate which laid the groundwork for the Catholic Church’s relations with Jews. Founded in 1843, B’nai B’rith, which also provides humanitarian aid and community service in needy areas, has a presence in more than 50 countries across the globe.
In his remarks, the Pope said, “respect for life and creation, human dignity, justice and solidarity unite us for the development of society and for securing a future rich in hope for generations to come. In a particular way, we are called to pray and work together for peace. Unfortunately, there are many countries and regions of the world that live in situations of conflict – I think in particular of the Holy Land and the Middle East – and that require a courageous commitment to peace…”
B’nai B’rith monitors and combats anti-Semitism and other human rights abuses around the world, and together with its World Center in Jerusalem, advocates on behalf of the State of Israel.
As a founding member of IsraAid, the World Center works with many other Israeli
relief organizations to provide humanitarian aid and disaster and emergency assistance
to those in need.
B’nai B’rith is also the largest Jewish sponsor of federally subsidized housing for the elderly in the United States with 42 buildings in 26 communities. Working in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, B'nai B'rith makes rental apartments available for senior citizens with limited incomes. B'nai B'rith senior housing is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, sex, handicap or national origin.
Below, please find the text of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks:
I am pleased to greet you during your visit to the Vatican. My predecessors met with delegations of B’nai B’rith International on several occasions, and today I offer you my welcome with renewed respect and affection.
Your organization has enjoyed relations with the Holy See since the promulgation of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate. This document constituted a milestone on the path of mutual knowledge and esteem between Jews and Catholics, based on the great spiritual patrimony that, thanks be to God, we share in common.
Looking back on these fifty years of regular dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism, I cannot help but thank the Lord for the great progress that has been made. Many initiatives fostering reciprocal understanding and dialogue have been undertaken; above all a sense of mutual trust and appreciation has developed. There are many areas in which we as Jews and Christians can continue to work together for the good of the peoples of our time. Respect for life and creation, human dignity, justice and solidarity unite us for the development of society and for securing a future rich in hope for generations to come. In a particular way, we are called to pray and work together for peace. Unfortunately, there are many countries and regions of the world that live in situations of conflict – I think in particular of the Holy Land and the Middle East – and that require a courageous commitment to peace, which is not only to be longed for, but sought after and built up patiently and tenaciously by everyone, especially believers.
During these moments together, I wish to recall with heartfelt gratitude all those who have fostered friendship between Jews and Catholics. I particularly want to mention Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. Saint John saved many Jews during the Second World War, met with them numerous times, and greatly desired a conciliar document on this theme. Regarding Saint John Paul, his various historical gestures remain very much alive in our memories, such as his visit to Auschwitz and to the Great Synagogue of Rome. With the help of God, I wish to walk in their footsteps, encouraged too by the many beautiful encounters and friendships I enjoyed in Buenos Aires.
May the Almighty and Eternal One bless our dialogue abundantly, especially during this year in which we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate, so that our friendship may always grow deeper and bear abundant fruit for our communities and the entire human family.
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