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Pope Francis: An Attack on the State of Israel Is ‘Anti-Semitism’

Pope Francis says direct attacks on Jews are not the only form of anti-Semitism, but that attacks on the State of Israel and its right to exist are also anti-Semitism.

“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism,” Francis said in a private audience Wednesday with delegates from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), to the delegation headed by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.”

Francis’s remarks came after an address to a large, interreligious audience commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark document Nostra Aetate, which effected significant changes in the way Catholics view people of other faiths.

The document was one of the most important texts produced by the Second Vatican Council, and was promulgated by Pope Paul VI fifty years ago to the day, on October 28, 1965.

In his address, Pope Francis offered tribute to the Jewish people, noting that in Jewish-Christian relations, “indifference and opposition have turned into cooperation and goodwill.”

“We owe special gratitude to God for the dramatic transformation that has taken place over the last 50 years in the relationship between Christians and Jews,” Francis said. “Indifference and opposition have turned into cooperation and goodwill. From enemies and strangers, we have become friends and brothers.”

WJC President Lauder expressed his approval of the Pope’s “powerful” words on anti-Semitism, saying that he “inspires people with his warmth and his compassion. His clear and unequivocal support for the Jewish people is critical to us.”

Rabbi David Rosen, Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs, said that a “relation with Judaism is intrinsic to the very nature of the Church.”

The message of Nostra Aetate, Rosen said, is that “there’s no relationship, no matter how bad and how poisonous, that cannot be transformed and made into a blessed one.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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