Updated: February 13, 2014 04:08 PM GMT
Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Association, at a meeting in Rome on February 13 (Reuters)
Pope Francis asked leaders of the American Jewish Committee to pray for his May trip to Jerusalem, "so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace".
The modern relationship between Jews and Catholics, he said on Thursday, has a "theological foundation" and is "not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem".
Pope Francis noted that in 2015, the Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council's declaration on relations with other religions. The document, the pope said, is "the sure point of reference for relations with our 'elder brothers'".
The declaration said Christians and Jews share a common heritage and a profound spiritual bond and denounced any form of contempt of the Jews. It also explicitly taught that responsibility for Jesus' death "cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today".
Pope Francis told the American Jewish Committee delegation that while the Catholic-Jewish exploration of theological themes must continue, the two communities also must find ways to work together to construct "a more just and fraternal world", especially through service to the poor, the marginalized and the suffering.
In addition, he said, "it is important that we dedicate ourselves to transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship", especially in seminaries and education programs for lay Catholics. "I am similarly hopeful that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young rabbis and the Jewish community."
Stanley Bergman, president of the committee, thanked the pope for his commitment to improving Jewish-Catholic relations and told him, "We come here feeling deeply that you are our true friend, and we feel that we are yours."
Source: Catholic News Service
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