Pope Meets with French Jews, is Mute on Recognizing Israel

Pope John Paul II strongly reiterated his condemnation of anti-Semitism at a meeting with Jewish leaders here Sunday, but made no response to requests that the Vatican recognize the state of Israel.

The pontiff, on an official visit to AIsace, received a local Jewish delegation at the archbishop’s residence, where he spoke briefly on the need for cooperation between Christians and Jews.

He paid tribute to the “roots of European civilization based on the Bible,” and to “the contribution of both Christians and Jews to the history and culture of all the nations of the continent.”

He avoided answering a plea made by Rene Gutman, the Strasbourg chief rabbi, for Vatican recognition of Israel and the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Gutman stressed the connections between the Holocaust and Israel, and the responsibility Western Europe must bear in the deaths of millions of Jews.

The pope replied by saying, “I join you in formally condemning anti-Semitism and racism in all their forms.”

The Jewish delegation included the presidents of various Jewish communities in the region; members of the Alsatian consistory and various French-Jewish personalities.

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