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Pope Francis renews commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations

(JTA) – Pope Francis’s renewed commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Jews and condemning anti-Semitism has drawn praise.

In “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), a 224-page document outlining his vision of the church and its mission that was released this week, Francis praised the current state of Jewish-Catholic relations and expressed regret for past – and continuing – anti-Jewish actions.

“Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples,” Francis wrote in the document. “The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.”

The Catholic Church, Francis wrote, holds “the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked.”

Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, praised the pope’s “emphasis on the importance of interreligious dialogue to promote peace in the world and as a means to ‘learn to accept others and their differen(ces),’” as  “powerful encouragement for greater respect and harmony in our world.”

The pope’s “emphasis on the ongoing Divine Presence in the life of the Jewish people and on the importance of the ‘values of Judaism’ for Christians, is particularly significant in further advancing the historic transformation in the Catholic Church’s approach towards the Jewish people,” Rosen said in a statement.

Francis is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, during an official visit by Netanyahu to Italy. During the visit, Netanyahu is expected to take part in a Hanukkah menorah lighting on Sunday in Rome’s main synagogue, along with Italy’s prime minister, Jewish community leaders and other officials, according to the Rome Jewish community website.

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