JERUSALEM - Israeli chief rabbi Yona Metzger on Monday praised Pope Benedict's inter-religious outreach and said relations between Israel and the Vatican had never been better.

"During his period (as pope) there were the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue," a spokesman quoted Metzger as saying after the pope announced he would resign. "I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

Metzger wished the pope "good health and long days", the spokesman said.

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