European rabbis in first meeting with Pope Francis


Pope Francis has spoken of his concern over the "troubling" rise of antisemitism in Europe and said Holocaust commemorations should serve as a warning for future generations.

In his first meeting with the Conference of European Rabbis, the Pontiff said Christians around the world must show solidarity with Jews.

The CER delegation met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday as part of work to strengthen dialogue between representatives of the two religions.

The group included Rabbi Haim Korsia, Chief Rabbi of France; Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation of Britain; and Shimon Cohen, director of Shechita UK.

Following the antisemitic attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, the meeting included discussions about fears for the future of religion in Europe and concerns over assaults on religious freedoms such as shechita.

In his address the Pope said: “Antisemitic trends in Europe these days are troubling. Every Christian must be firm in deploring all forms of antisemitism, and in showing their solidarity with the Jewish people.

"Recently we marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp which has come to be synonymous with the great tragedy of the Shoah. The memory of what took place there, in the heart of Europe, is a warning to present and future generations.

"Acts of hatred and violence against Christians and the faithful of other religions must likewise be condemned everywhere.”

He added: “In a society increasingly marked by secularism and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist. People are often tempted to take the place of God, to consider themselves the criterion of all things, to control them, to use everything according to their own will. It is so important to remember, however, that our life is a gift from God.

“Jews and Christians have the blessing but also the responsibility to help preserve the religious sense of the men and women of today, and that of our society.”

CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said: “We would like to thank the Holy See and the Catholic communities of Europe for supporting our quest for religious freedom and our common quest to head off the dangers of a Radical Islam, which has become a threat not only for us, but for the world as a whole, as the terrible events in Paris and Copenhagen have shown us.

"We express our deepest sympathy, prayers and support for the Christians in the Middle East and are proud to note that the Holy Land is an island in that very troubled region, where Christians can continue to enjoy full religious freedoms and their personal safety is protected by the Jewish state.”

He added that the Jewish community suffers two-fold from Islamic terrorism, first as targets and subsequently in the knock-on effect of the backlash from Western countries which try to stop Muslim practices such as Halal religious slaughter.

“European Jewry is the ‘collateral damage’ in this anti-Muslim offensive,” Rabbi Goldschmidt said.

The meeting came 50 years after Nostra Aetate, the declaration by the Church that rejected persecution of all religions.

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