Pope Assures ADL Leaders He Is A Moral Voice Against Anti-Semitism
New York, NY, October 12, 2006 … In a private audience today with leaders from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI issued his strongest declaration against anti-Semitism since assuming the papacy, telling the visiting delegation of Jewish leaders that he would, "be a strong, constant voice against anti-Semitism."
"I will always be there for you in fighting anti-Semitism," Pope Benedict personally assured Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, in informal words following his prepared remarks to the delegation.
"The church deplores all forms of hatred or persecution directed against the Jews and all displays of anti-Semitism at any time and from any source," the Pope said, adding that he plans to carry on the positive interfaith relationship that Jews had with Pope John Paul II.
Pope Benedict also used the meeting as an opportunity to express regret over the recent controversy surrounding his remarks on the Prophet Mohammed and Islam. He told ADL leaders that his remarks were intended as an invitation to dialogue between Islam and other religions, and that his quoting from a medieval text that characterized some of Mohammed's teachings as "evil and inhuman" was misunderstood by many in the Muslim world.
"May the Eternal One, our Father in heaven, bless every effort to eliminate from our world any misuse of religion as an excuse for hatred or violence," the Pope said. He added that the Vatican is making interfaith dialogue a top priority with an aim to, "build relationships not just of tolerance, but of authentic respect."
Mr. Foxman said: "In offering his most forceful words yet against anti-Semitism, and in expressing remorse for the reaction to his remarks about Islam, Pope Benedict has shown that he is greatly sensitive to the need for a new level of openness and dialogue among the major faiths."
Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, shared his story of being hidden by his Polish Catholic nanny, Bronislawa Kurpi, who had him baptized. Pope Benedict, in an unprecedented response, said, "You have touched my heart." A longtime Vatican expert said that it was the first time he has ever seen the Pope leave his prepared remarks to offer a personal word to a private Jewish audience.
While in Rome, the delegation of ADL leaders also met with Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president for the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and Father Norbert Hoffman, the secretary of the Vatican's Commission for Relations with Judaism. Cardinal Kasper discussed the need for fostering programs to teach the lessons of Nostra Aetate, the landmark document that repudiated the centuries-old "deicide" charge against all Jews, stressed the religious bond shared by Jews and Catholics, and reaffirmed the eternal covenant between God and the People of Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.