WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Speaking to Jewish leaders for the first time as pope, Francis said that true Christians cannot hold anti-Semitic sentiments due to the intertwined history of the two faiths.

Pope Francis went on to condemn “all manifestations of anti-Semitism” and reiterated that the 1965 declaration Nostra Aetate remains the key reference point for Catholic relations to the Jewish community. Francis stated that “the fundamental principles expressed by the Declaration have marked the path of greater awareness and mutual understanding trodden these last decades by Jews and Catholics.”

“Because of our commons roots, a true Christian cannot be anti-Semitic,” Francis said Monday at a meeting with a delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, or IJCIC.

During Monday’s meeting, the pope said he had come across “important personalities of the Jewish world,” but conceded not yet having been in front of an official audience of Jewish leaders.

However, Francis has had a long history with Jewish leaders, he wrote a 2010 book with a rabbi while he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. “On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century” was written with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina, and an English version was released in April.

“Pope Francis is a very good friend of the Jewish people and we rejoice in the fact that he will continue to advance the path of his predecessors in deepening the Catholic-Jewish relationship even further,” said Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international interreligious affairs.

The Pope encouraged those leaders present to “follow this path trying, as you do so, to involve younger generations.” “Humanity,” he said, “needs our joint witness in favor of respect for the dignity of man and woman…and in favor of peace.”

A 2013 Pew Forum on Religions and Public Life found that 80 percent of the world’s Jewish population lives between Israel and the United States, with nearly 41 percent of Jewish people residing in each country.


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