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ADL Leaders Meet with the Pope

March 27, 1984
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Brotherhood, cooperation between two ancient faiths for humanitarian goals, and continuing dialogue were the focus of remarks by Pope John Paul II at a Papal audience with II representatives of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith — accompanied by their wives — at the Vatican Saturday morning.

“The dialogue between Catholics and Jews, the mysterious spiritual ties that unite us both in Abraham, their common concern for contemporary problems of humanity, condemnation of anti-Semitism by the Catholic Church,” were the themes touched on by the Pontiff according to highlights and a summary of the audience published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osser-vatore Romano, and broadcast by the Vatican radio.


Kenneth Bialkin, national chairman of the ADL, spoke of the Pope’s “very warm reception” to the Jewish group, stopping to exchange brief remarks with each member.

Bialkin, who spoke in response to John Paul’s remarks, said he expressed particular concern over the resurgence of anti-Semitism all over the world, especially the equation of Zionism with racism. He said he called on the Pope to use his prestige and spiritual force to help the struggle to improve conditions for Soviet Jews and to further the quest for peace, independence and security for Israel.

Bialkin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had stressed the meaning of Israel to Jews. “The time was short, but I tried to explain why American Jews are so deeply bound to Israel’s survival over and beyond momentary politics — feelings difficult for non-Jews to understand, ” the ADL official said.

“Each of us, I said, feels as if he had personally survived the Holocaust, and we know that countless more of us could have survived if we had a place to go. We must combine forces to assure not only Jews but all the persecuted people of the world that there be a ‘place’ for everyone to go to find refuge,” Bialkin said he told the Pope.


John Paul did not refer to Israel or the Palestinian problem specifically during the audience. He concentrated on amity, quoting the 133rd Psalm, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”

The Pope defined the special quality of the “brotherly” relationship between Catholics and Jews. “Because, my dear friends, as I have often said … the encounter between Catholics and Jews is not a meeting of two ancient religions each going its own way, and not infrequently, in times past, in grievous and painful conflict. It is a meeting between brothers, a dialogue…”

He appeared to be calling for more open relations when he observed that “This spiritual link, however, involves a great responsibility. Closeness in respect implies trust and frankness, and totally excludes distrust and suspicion. It also calls for fraternal concern for one another and the problems and difficulties with which each of our religious communities is faced.”

In greeting the group, the Pope acknowledged the AD Las “the well known association based in the U.S. but active in many parts of the world, including Rome itself … closely related with the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, founded ten years ago by Paul VI for the purpose of fostering relations at the levels of our respective faith commitments. “

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