ROME, June 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On June 24, 2013, members of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) were privileged to have an audience with Pope Francis at the Papal Palace in Rome. The meeting was attended by Professor Lawrence Schiffman, IJCIC Chair (Orthodox Union), Betty Ehrenberg, Vice Chair (World Jewish Congress), Martin Budd, IJCIC Treasurer (Anti-Defamation League) and many other representatives of IJCIC member organizations and was held in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Professor Schiffman 's opening remarks expressed great appreciation for the close relationship, friendship and cooperation that has been developed between IJCIC and the Vatican over time as we have worked together for 40 years advancing Jewish-Catholic relations. He said that IJCIC is gratified that the Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with the State of Israel and has excellent relations with many Jewish groups and with Jewish communities around the world. On behalf of IJCIC, he addressed the willingness to rededicate ourselves to continue to build on the strong relationship that Jews and Catholics have nurtured and to continue to seek common ground in order to work on issues of mutual concern, such as religious freedom, and the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Pope Francis, in his remarks to the IJCIC representatives, firmly condemned hatred and all forms of anti-Semitism, saying, "Due to our common roots Christians cannot be anti-Semitic!" He also expressed joy at his deep friendships with the Jewish leaders, particularly those in Argentina with whom he had the opportunity to develop a close and ongoing dialogue. He mentioned the importance of trying to involve the younger generations in the dialogue so that the friendly relations can continue in this direction.Schiffman said, "We were profoundly gratified by Pope Francis's encouraging words which increase our confidence that when Jews and Catholics work together we can succeed. We thank Pope Francis for his warm words and look forward to continuing our close friendship and cooperation, which we hope will intensify in the future."