Pope Francis expressed his support for the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity and condemned anti-Semitism during his latest Papal audience last Wednesday, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate.
“Yes to the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity. No to anti-Semitism,” Francis said speaking to the crowds gathered at St. Peter’s Square.
Nostra Aetate is the declaration promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1965, which consistently improved the relations between Jews and Catholics.
The audience was attended by a delegation of representatives of the World Jewish Congress, lead by president Ronald Lauder and president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Renzo Gattegna.
“Since Nostra Aetate, indifference and antagonism have turned into cooperation and goodwill. Enemies and strangers became friends and brothers,” Jorge Bergoglio added.
The Pope also received WJC president Lauder in a private audience. As Lauder revealed during a press conference following the meeting, in that circumstance Pope Francis also said that attacking the State of Israel equals anti-Semitism in the same ways that attacking Jews does.
“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,” Bergoglio said, according to the WJC statement.
Interviewed by Vatican Radio, official broadcasting service of the Holy See, president Gattegna explained that “we have a challenge ahead of us: to ensure that dialogue is always authentically lived not only by the religious elite but by the population as a whole.”
Looking at the future, he also said that “it could be relevant to produce a joint statement between Jews and Catholics.”
Among the religious leaders who were at the Vatican, was also a delegation of the American Jewish Commitee including Lisa Billig, AJC Representative in Italy and the Vatican.
“By institutionalizing a new respect for the Jewish faith in Catholicism, Nostra Aetate effectively helped also to create a more positive and trustworthy image of Christianity (and other religions) in the Jewish psyche, after suffering centuries of strife and persecutions,” she commented.