Pope Tells Rabbis He Sees Hope in Dialogue

Israeli Embassy Calls Meeting "Historic"

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II received the chief rabbis of Israel in audience and said the official dialogue between the Church and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel "is a sign of great hope."



The religious leaders traveled to Rome to attend the "Concert of Reconciliation," scheduled for Saturday in the Vatican.

"We must spare no effort in working together to build a world of justice, peace and reconciliation for all peoples. May Divine Providence bless our work and crown it with success," the Holy Father said today when addressing Ashkenazi Rabbi Jonah Metzgher, Sephardic Rabbi Slomo Amar and Chief Rabbinate director-general Oded Wiener.

At the start of his address, John Paul II said that in "the 25 years of my pontificate, I have striven to promote Jewish-Catholic dialogue and to foster ever greater understanding, respect, and cooperation between us."

"One of the highlights of my pontificate will always remain my Jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which included intense moments of remembrance, reflection and prayer at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and at the Western Wall," he said.

In a statement, the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See described today's meeting as "historic," in which the chief rabbis returned the visit the Holy Father made to Jerusalem in the year 2000.

The rabbis said that during the meeting with the Pope, reference was made to the "phenomenon of anti-Semitism, emphasizing the present dimension of the words spoken in the past by the Pope," when he recommended "teaching consciences to consider anti-Semitism and all forms of racism as a sin against God and humanity."

The chief rabbis of Israel also asked the Pope "to exert his influence on the faithful in regard to the growing wave of terrorism that strikes the innocent and endangers reconciliation," and they thanked him for instituting "the day dedicated to Judaism" in the Catholic Church.

The rabbis also mentioned to the Pope the suffering of the families of prisoners of war and of Israeli soldiers who have disappeared, asking him to lend his moral authority to resolve these problems.

Saturday's concert, dedicated to reconciliation between Jews, Christians and Muslims, has been organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, with the support of the Knights of Columbus.

U.S. maestro Gilbert Levine will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a performance of John Harbison's "Abraham" and parts of Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony. The Polyphonic Choir of the State of Ankara, the Choir of the Krakow Philharmonic, and the Choir of the London Philharmonic will perform together with some members of Pittsburgh's Mendelssohn Choir.