In a meeting following his session with leaders of non-Christian religions, Pope Benedict gave a special greeting to the Jewish leaders. He underlined the common spiritual heritage of the two faiths and asked for cooperation between the two faiths in working to achieve peace, particularly in the Middle East and the Holy Land.
The Pope’s message was framed within the context of the annual Jewish celebration of the Passover or “Pesah”. He also explained that the message should serve as “a testimony to our hope centered on the Almighty and his mercy.”
Benedict began drawing upon the common spiritual roots of Judaism and Christianity by saying, “While the Christian celebration of Easter differs in many ways from your celebration of Pesah, we understand and experience it in continuation with the biblical narrative of the mighty works which the Lord accomplished for his people.”
The Pontiff also said that he wanted to “re-affirm the Second Vatican Council's teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church's commitment to the dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better.”
“Because of that growth in trust and friendship, Christians and Jews can rejoice together” and use this holy time of year to recommit to pursuing “justice, mercy, solidarity with the stranger in the land, with the widow and orphan,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father also recalled how at the Passover Sèder meal, Jews remember their forefathers who partake in a Covenant that gradually “assumes an ever more universal value”. This perspective offers “a real prospect of universal brotherhood on the path of justice and peace, preparing the way of the Lord.”
“With respect and friendship,” he continued, “I therefore ask the Jewish community to accept my Pesah greeting in a spirit of openness to the real possibilities of cooperation which we see before us as we contemplate the urgent needs of our world, and as we look with compassion upon the sufferings of millions of our brothers and sisters everywhere. Naturally, our shared hope for peace in the world embraces the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular.”
Benedict XVI concluded his talk by praying, “May the memory of God's mercies, which Jews and Christians celebrate at this festive time, inspire all those responsible for the future of that region-where the events surrounding God's revelation actually took place-to new efforts, and especially to new attitudes and a new purification of hearts!”