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Catholic World News News Feature

Christians, Jews share duty to uphold moral law, Pope says January 16, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI strongly condemned anti-Semitism, and called for cooperation between Jews and Christians in defending fundamental moral principles, as he met on January 16 with the chief rabbi of Rome.

During the audience Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni invited the Pope to visit Rome's synagogue, repeating the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in April 1986.

In his address Pope Benedict remarked that the Jewish people have endured many hardships, always persevering because "the favor of the God of the Covenant has always accompanied them, giving them the strength to overcome trails." In Rome today, he added, the Jewish community "can also bear witness to this divine loving attention."

As joint heirs of God's law, the Pope continued, Christians "share in the responsibility of cooperating for the good of all people, in justice and peace, in truth and freedom, in holiness and love." Christians and Jews should unite, he said, "to transmit the torch of the Ten Commandments and of hope to the younger generations."

In light of this shared mission, he said, "we cannot fail to denounce and fight firmly the hatred and misunderstanding, the injustice and violence that continue to worry the soul of men and women of good will." Lest anyone fail to grasp his point, he specifically added that all Christians must be "pained and concerned over the renewal of manifestations of anti-Semitism."

Rabbi Di Segni, in a short address during the papal audience, remarked that the Roman synagogue will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the visit by Pope John Paul on April 13. While the historic impact of that gesture can never be duplicated, the rabbi said, "there is no reason why it could not be repeated by a new Pope, who is always welcome." Speaking to reporters after he left the Vatican, Rabbi Di Segni said that Pope Benedict had responded positively to the invitation, although no commitment had been made.

Rabbi Di Segni and Pope Benedict had exchanged messages in April, immediately after the new Pontiff's election. Pope Benedict wrote, in a telegram sent to the Jewish community of Rome, that he hoped to "continue the dialogue and reinforce the collaboration" with the Jewish community that his predecessor had begun. The rabbi quickly responded by thanking the Pope for "this message which is so opportune, important, and significant."