In an encounter with the American Jewish Committee, Pope Francis highlighted the strong unity of Jews and Catholics, stating that their shared roots obligate them to work together in building a just society.

"I am very grateful to you for the distinguished contribution you have made to dialogue and fraternity between Jews and Catholics, and I encourage you to continue on this path," the Pope expressed during the Feb. 13 encounter.

Speaking to members of the committee, which was established in 1906 in order to safeguard the welfare and security of Jews worldwide, the pontiff extended his greetings to the organization, giving special emphasis to their "good relations with the Holy See and with many representatives of the Catholic world."

He then drew attention to the fact that next year commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Second Vatican Council document "Nostra Aetate," which is the Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.

The document, he noted serves as "the sure point of reference for relations with our 'elder brothers,'" observing that from it "our reflection on the spiritual patrimony which unites us and which is the foundation of our dialogue has developed with renewed vigor."

Emphasizing that this foundation is a "theological" one, the pontiff highlighted the importance of ensuring "that our dialogue be always profoundly marked by the awareness of our relationship with God."

"In addition to dialogue, it is also important to find ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate in constructing a more just and fraternal world," he continued, calling attention to the shared concern of Jews and Catholics in serving "the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer."

"Our commitment to this service is anchored in the protection of the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners as shown in Sacred Scripture," the pontiff observed.

Concluding his address, the Pope stated that in order to keep their efforts from becoming "fruitless," it is "important that we dedicate ourselves to transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship which has…grown over these years."

"It is my hope," he stated, "that the study of relations with Judaism may continue to flourish in seminaries and in centers of formation for lay Catholics."

Pope Francis also expressed his hope "that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young Rabbis and the Jewish community."

Turning to his upcoming visit to the Holy Land, the Pope noted that "in a few months I will have the joy of visiting Jerusalem, where – as the Psalm says – we are all born (cf. Ps 87:5), and where all peoples will one day meet (cf. Is 25:6-10)."

He then asked members of the committee to "accompany me with your prayers, so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace. Shalom!"