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Pope invites Israeli president to Vatican, first such visit in 2,000 years

.- In a historic move that marks a new era in Catholic-Jewish relations, Israeli President Moshe Katsav will visit the Vatican Nov. 17.

Benedict XVI invited the head of the Jewish state to the Vatican, reported the London Times, although the Vatican has not yet officially announced the visit.

Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Oded Ben-Hur said this is the first such visit in 2,000 years. "This is history in the making," he reportedly said.

Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks told the Times that the visit is a "further step forward in the transformed relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people; a clear sign of Pope Benedict XVI’s determination to continue the bridge-building work of his predecessors. In a world of destructive religious tensions, the meeting of these two men is a strong signal of promise and hope."

Fr. Norbert Hoffman, secretary of the Papal Commission for Relations with the Jews, who was in London for the 40th anniversary celebrations of Nostra Aetate, told the Times that the visit is very important for the Church and that relations with the Jewish state is one of Pope Benedict’s priorities.

Catholic-Jewish relations have made significant headway since the 1960s. Nostra Aetate, a document that emerged from the Second Vatican Council in 1965, denounces anti-Semitism and encourages dialogue between Christians and Jews. Israel and the Vatican opened diplomatic relations 12 years ago and the late Pope John Paul II visited Israel and prayed at the Wailing Wall during the Jubilee Year in 2000.

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