Pope Francis addressed a meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee in the Vatican Wednesday, taking advantage of the encounter to once more condemn anti-Semitism.
In his prepared text, the pope thanked the participants in the meeting for their efforts to keep up a lively conversation between Catholic and Jews, suggesting that their gathering is “something like a general assembly of all those professionally engaged in Jewish-Catholic dialogue.”
Over the past 50 years, “Jewish-Catholic dialogue has borne good fruit,” Francis said. “We share a rich spiritual patrimony that can and must be ever more esteemed and appreciated as we grow in mutual understanding, fraternity and shared commitment on behalf of others.”
The pope praised the group for not shying away from difficult issues of the day, such as “our approach to refugees and how best to help them, the fight against the troubling recrudescence of anti-Semitism, and concern for the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world.”
“I offer you my encouragement, for dialogue is the way to better understand one another and to work together in building a climate not only of tolerance but also of respect between religions,” he said.
“Our strength is the gentle strength of encounter, not of the extremism emerging in certain quarters today, which leads only to conflict,” he added.
Over the six years of his pontificate, Francis has often condemned anti-Semitism, urging Christians to fight against this evil.
Last year, the pontiff said that indifference to anti-Semitism is “the root of death,” urging all people of good will to never tire of fighting it whenever it appears.
When dealing with anti-Semitism, our enemy “is not only hatred in all of its forms,” Francis said, “but even more fundamentally, indifference; for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right.”
This past March, Francis told members of the American Jewish Committee that the scourge of anti-Semitism that is growing in many parts of the world is “a source of great concern to me.”
A “climate of wickedness and fury” is spreading in many places, the pope said, “in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root. I think especially of the outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks in various countries.”
He also insisted on the need to be “vigilant” about the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
“History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated,” he said.
For a Christian, he added, “any form of anti-Semitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome