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E.U., religious leaders meet

Europe’s political leadership welcomed leaders of the continent’s three monotheistic religions in Brussels. Tuesday’s meeting was co-chaired by the three main institutions of the European Union.Jose Barroso, president of the European Commission; European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pattering; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, current president of the European Council, all addressed the meeting. Senior leaders of Judaism, Christianity and Islam attended the meeting, whose topic was “Building a Europe based on human dignity.” The participants addressed religion’s role in European society, stressing the need for mutual understanding and dialogue, especially ahead of 2008, which the European Union has designated the Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The Jewish delegation was headed by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and associate president of the Conference of European Rabbis; Chief Rabbi of Antwerp Dovid Lieberman; Chief Rabbi Rene Gutman of Strasbourg; and Maram Stern, deputy secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress. “At a time when relations between faith groups in Europe are undergoing a sometimes difficult period, it gives us great encouragement that the European institutions at the highest level are giving full support to dialogue between faith groups,” said Philip Carmel, international relations director of the Conference of European Rabbis. “It is also an important sign for Jewish groups in Europe that we hear such clear statements from important leaders such as President Barroso and Chancellor Merkel, who are continually forthright in their condemnations of anti-Semitism.”