Pope Benedict XVI told a leading Jewish human rights group Monday that relations between Catholics and Jews are moving in a positive direction after a "difficult and painful history."
He said both religions must move ahead "along the path of mutual respect and dialogue, inspired by our shared spiritual heritage."
The pope received a delegation of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, part of his efforts since assuming the papacy in April of reaching out to Jews. During a trip to his native Germany in August, Benedict visited a synagogue in Cologne that was destroyed by the Nazis.
Benedict noted that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark document "Nostra Aetate" - Latin for "in our time" - which dealt with the Catholic Church's relations with Jews and members of other religions. It deplored anti-Semitism and repudiated the "deicide" charge that blamed Jews as a people for Christ's death.
"After a difficult and painful history, relations between our two communities are presently taking a new, more positive direction," the pope said.
He expressed hope that this century "will see our world emerge from the web of conflict and violence, and sow the seeds for a future of reconciliation, justice and peace."