.- Israel's two chief rabbis met Pope Benedict XVI today to mark the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a document which emerged from the Second Vatican Council and which redefined Catholic-Jewish relations. The document denounces anti-Semitism and repudiates the charge that blames Jews as a people for Christ's death. "Today,” Benedict XVI has asserted, “we must continue in the search of ways to fulfill the task of which I have spoken in my recent visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, to pass the torch of hope that God gave to the Hebrew as well as to the Christians, with the aid of God, we can construct a more just and pacific world in which all the men have equal citizenship".
The Pope then remembered the Holy Land and the "challenges" that local ecclesial communities "must face" and that "peace and religion must proceed together".
The Pontiff also has foretold that the diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See "will lead us to more solid and stable cooperation."
Israel's two chief rabbis urged Pope Benedict XVI to speak out against the desecration of synagogues and other forms of anti-Semitism during a meeting Thursday.
The rabbis also asked the pontiff to urge priests, bishops and cardinals around the world to set aside one day of the year to preach the teachings of a landmark Vatican document on relations with Jews that repudiated all forms of anti-Semitism.
The pope said he would try to respond "in a positive way" to the rabbis' request, Israel's ambassador to the Holy See told a news conference after the meeting.
Oded Ben-Hur, the Israel ambassador to the Vatican, said Wednesday that Israel needs the Vatican's support at "this very dire hour" now that it has completed its withdrawal from Gaza.
Pope Benedict has made improving Catholic-Jewish relations one of the top priorities of his pontificate. Last month in Cologne, he was only the second Pope to enter a synagogue when he met with the Jewish German community there and denounced anti-Semitism and terror.