Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday thanked outgoing Pope Benedict XVI for strengthening the bond between Christians and Jews.

Last week the pope announced his plans to step down at the end of the month. It’s the first time in 700 years that a pontiff has done so.

“I want to thank you for all you have done as Pope to strengthen relations between Christians and Jews and between the Vatican and the Jewish State,” Netanyahu said in a letter he wrote to the Pontiff.

“I thank you also for courageously defending Judeo-Christian values and the roots of our common civilization during your time as pontiff,” he said.

“Your historic visit to Israel in 2009 offered a rare opportunity to give expression to the new relations between our faiths,” said Netanyahu.

“I remember fondly our meeting, in which you referred to Judaism as Christianity’s elder brother and in which you reaffirmed your commitment to a cooperative future between Christians and Jews,” Netanyahu said.

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