Chief Rabbi David Lau called on Pope Francis to establish an interfaith conference of global religious leaders in order to combat the phenomenon of violence in the name of religion, in his meeting with the pontiff on Monday morning at the Heichal Shlomo center in Jerusalem.
Speaking before the pope, Lau spoke out strongly against continued anti-Semitism, and violence in the name of religion in particular, alluding to Saturday’s attack at the Jewish Museum of Brussels in which four people were killed including two Israelis.
“I see you, Pope Francis, as a partner to protest against these crimes, and to educate people in tolerance and love,” said Lau. “Be a partner with us and establish an interfaith conference to advance this crucial message.”
Earlier, when he visited the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the pope had indeed called for a rejection of violence, saying: “May no one abuse the name of God through violence.”
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post after his speech, Lau said he focused on these issues because condemnation of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in words alone is insufficient.
“You have to uproot this phenomenon. Things have to be done practically to combat it. I think the pope showed interest in the idea of an interfaith conference such as I mentioned, and I hope and believe that he will accept the request.”
In his own address, Pope Francis called for the creation of “bonds of true fraternity’ between Jews and Christians and also praised ongoing dialogue between the Vatican and the Chief Rabbinate.
Speaking to Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, and delegates from the Vatican’s commission for relations with the Jewish people, Pope Francis said that great progress had been made in recent decades in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, calling the development “a gift from God.”
The pontiff said that for Catholics, building ever-closer ties with the Jewish people was an important goal because of the close connection between the origin of Christianity and the Jewish people, while expressing hope for greater Jewish knowledge of Christianity.
“On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith,” the pope said.
“I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people.”
He also praised the ongoing dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, which is now in its twelfth year, quipping that he hoped the bar mitzva anniversary of the talks would presage even greater success.
Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett was present in a meeting with the pope, which was also attended by Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and the chief rabbis, before the pontiff gave his public address.
Bennett welcomed the pope to Israel and said that the State of Israel was the “realization of the vision of the prophets who foresaw our return to the Holy Land.”