ROME (JTA) — World Jewish Congress leaders who met with Vatican officials expressed optimism that Jewish-Catholic relations would survive the controversy over the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop.
The WJC said Richard Prasquier, president of the French-Jewish umbrella organization CRIF, and Maram Stern, the WJC deputy secretary-general responsible for interfaith dialogue, met Monday at the Vatican with Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with the Jews, to discuss the controversy over Richard Williamson.
According to a WJC statement, its representatives "expressed optimism that the Williamson affair would soon be over and that it would not burden the Catholic-Jewish relationship in the longer term," Prasquier said. "Today, we strongly reaffirmed that the denial of the Shoah is not an opinion but a crime."
Meanwhile, according to the statement, WJC President Ronald Lauder said he hoped that the controversy would not derail an expected papal visit to Israel in the spring. Such a trip, Lauder was quoted as saying, would "be an opportunity to reaffirm the Vatican’s commitment to dialogue with Jews."
Reuters reported over the weekend that a delegation of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations would meet Thursday with the pope.