VATICAN CITY (Nov. 12)
Pope John Paul II opened a half-hour audience with Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, by condemning anti-Semitism.
During the meeting on Thursday, the two men discussed issues ranging from Vatican relations with Israel to a condemnation of anti-Semitism.
Bronfman said he presented the pope with a copy of the Declaration of Tolerance, written by Elie Wiesel and to date signed by about 65 heads of state, which the pope indicated he was anxious to sign.
Bronfman said that during the audience he raised the possibility of the pope going to Washington for the inauguration of the new Holocaust Museum and Memorial in April, a ceremony also to be attended by new President Bill Clinton.
He also raised the possibility of the pope accepting Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Peres’ recent invitation to visit Israel.
They also discussed the continuing progress on the new Carmelite convent that will replace the one at Auschwitz. Bronfman said he “acknowledged with gratitude” the pope’s stand on the issue.
The pope told Bronfman that everything was on track for the construction of the new convent and the nuns will be moving into the new building as soon as it is finished.
“It was a great honor and an enormous privilege” to have the audience, Bronfman told reporters afterward.
Also in attendance were Israel Singer, secretary of the WJC, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews.
Bronfman was in Rome in his dual role as president of the WJC and chairman of IJCIC, the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.
He was on hand when WJC honorary vice president Gerhart Riegner was awarded a Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory the Great for his 50 years of commitment to interreligious dialogue.
On Thursday, the steering committee of the IJCIC/Vatican Liaison group working toward improving Jewish-Catholic relations held a scheduled meeting. Bronfman and Cassidy are co-chairmen of this consultative group and were received by the pope in that capacity.
Bronfman indicated that moves were under way to coordinate a concrete religious response to current manifestation of hatred and prejudice — not just anti- Semitism — by leaders of various faiths, but he declined to go into specifics.
In a toast at a dinner honoring Riegner on Wednesday night, Bronfman urged that a “religious summit” be convened, gathering together the leaders of many faiths in an effort to combat the kind of hatred and killing taking place in Bosnia- Herzegovina and elsewhere.