Pope Francis meets European chief rabbis, condemns anti-Semitism

Pope with European Jewish delegation

The European Jewish delegation and the Pope on Monday at the Vatican. (L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis, in a meeting with European chief rabbis, expressed concern about the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent and called on Christians to reject hatred and violence towards Jews.

Pope Francis received a delegation of 10 chief rabbis from the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) on Monday. This was the first time the CER had ever been received in the Vatican. During the visit, the Pope voiced concern about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and commended the developing good ties between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow, who led the CER delegation, said that interfaith work “is particularly relevant in the wake of recent attacks on the Jewish communities of Europe and the Catholic communities in Africa and the Middle East.” He noted that Europe’s Jews are the “collateral damage” of the far-right’s anti-Muslim initiatives, such as the banning of circumcision and ritual slaughter.

The Pope likewise expressed concern about the rise of European anti-Semitism. Recalling the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, he stated: “The anti-Semitic trend as well as certain acts of hatred and violence in Europe are alarming. Every Christian must be firm in condemning all forms of anti-Semitism.”

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Starting Point for Dialogue

Pope Francis remarked that October 28 will be the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate, a conciliar declaration expressing respect for other religions, including Judaism. The Catholic Church considers this document to be the starting point for interfaith dialogue.

Absent from the meeting was Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni due to the passing of the city’s former chief rabbi, Elio Toaff, on Sunday. The Pope expressed his condolences and described Rabbi Toaff as a “man of peace and dialogue.”

The Conference of European Rabbis is the largest Orthodox Jewish rabbinical organization in Europe, with over 700 religious members. It was founded in 1956 with the goal of reviving the European Jewish community after the Holocaust.