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(photo credit: Courtesy: Photo by L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope Benedict XVI "understands and appreciates" Jewish concerns over the Holocaust denial conference held last week in Teheran, B'nai B'rith International president Moishe Smith told The Jerusalem Post on Monday following a half-hour meeting with the pontif at the Vatican.
Smith had called on the pope to issue "an urgent and unwavering moral response" to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the wake of the Teheran conference.
While a Vatican statement issued last week specifically noted the Holocaust, the statement released following Monday's meeting did not. Rather, it called on believers "to show that it is not hatred and violence, but understanding and peaceful cooperation, which open the door to that future of justice and peace which is God's promise and gift."
Nevertheless, according to B'nai B'rith executive vice president Daniel Mariaschin, "Ours and Olmert's visits underscored the outrage we have and the danger we see from what's coming from Iran. Our sense of this meeting is that that is understood," he told the Post.
The visit also dealt with "intensifying the good relations between Christians and Jews," Mariaschin said.
According to a Vatican statement, "Much has been achieved in the past four decades of Jewish-Catholic relations, and we must be grateful to God for the remarkable transformation that has taken place on the basis of our common spiritual patrimony."
The meeting came five days after Pope Benedict XVI met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a similar 30-minute interview dealing with similar topics, including the Iranian conference and a possible papal visit to Israel.
The Monday audience also marked the organization's new focus on interfaith relations, which included the establishment of an Office of Intercommunal Affairs earlier this year.