Swiss Jews Meet with Pope
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Swiss Jews Meet with Pope

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A delegation of Swiss Jewish leaders, among them Chief Rabbi Alexander Safran of Geneva, met with Pope John Paul II in Fribourg for 20 minutes late yesterday afternoon. Jean Nordman, president of the Jewish community in Fribourg said the meeting, though brief, was extremely friendly and warm. It was one of the first meetings on the agenda of the Pope who arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday. He noted that he always endeavors to meet with Jewish representatives on his apostolic trips throughout the world and told the assembled Jewish leaders, “It is certainly a joy for me to meet with you.”

George Brunshweig, president of the Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities who was spokesman for the group, appealed to the Pope for Vatican recognition of Israel and urged him to issue a declaration against anti-Semitism. He alluded to the Pope’s Polish origin as a factor which has given him a special understanding of the problems of minorities and a desire to help them.

Brunshweig presented the Pontiff with a book on the history of Jews in Switzerland.

Rabbi Safran, who had received a special invitation from the Swiss Catholic Church to meet the Pope, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency later that they had spoken about the Jewish community of Cracow, which John Paul knows well and relations between European Jewry in general and the State of Israel.

Safran said he stressed the fact that the Jewish community in Rome was linked to Israel since the days of the Second Temple. He said the Pope showed sincere interest and he hoped the meeting would have favorable results.


The Pope, for his part, touched on the main themes of concern in Catholic-Jewish relations–prejudice, dialogue, peace and justice achieved through negotiations. “How can Christians remain indifferent to the problems and dangers which concern you — if not in Switzerland, then in many parts of the world?” he asked.

The Pope made only a veiled reference to the Middle East. “Is not the Biblical term, Shalom, with which people greet each other in the countries of the East, an appeal to our responsibilities?” he said. “In fact, we are all invited to work with passion for the good of peace. On its part, the Holy See makes continuous efforts to promote a peace founded on justice, on respect for the right of all, on the suppression of the causes of non-friendship, beginning with those hidden in the hearts of men,” the Pope said.

“Dialogue and negotiations”, he added, are the paths that The Vatican “never tires of recommending. There are no prejudices nor basic reserves for any people whatsoever. It (The Vatican) would like to be able to demonstrate its interest to all, to collaborate for the development of one and the other on the basis of freedom, understood in its most authentic meaning. This is an ideal which can be helped a great deal by a perservering dialogue and the active and fruitful collaboration between Jews and Christians.”

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