A Jewish delegation from the United States met with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday and one member said it was wonderful to hear his "profound commitment" to Catholic-Jewish relations.
American Jewish Committee delegation member Rabbi David Rosen, director of inter-religious relations for the New York-based group, described the encounter with the pope as "extremely warm and intimate."
"It is always wonderful from our perspective to hear his profound commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations and his emphasis on the uniqueness of the relationship," Rosen said in a telephone interview after the audience at the Vatican.
Benedict has made improving relations Jews a priority of his pontificate, continuing the groundbreaking work of his predecessor John Paul II. The Vatican has an office that deals specifically with relations with Jews, whom John Paul once called the "older brothers" of Christians.
Benedict became the second pope in history to enter a synagogue during a trip to Cologne, Germany, in August.
The pope, meanwhile, called for respect of all religious symbols and places of worship, and said that Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders should work together for world peace.
Benedict said the three major monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - should cooperate to promote justice and world peace.
"This is especially important today when particular attention must be given to teaching respect for God, for religions and their symbols, and for holy sites and places of worship," the pope said. "Religious leaders have a responsibility to work for reconciliation through genuine dialogue and acts of human solidarity."
The pope has also said he wants to build "bridges of friendship" with Muslims.
Last month, amid violent protests in the Muslim world over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, the pope said religious symbols must be respected but that violence is never justified as a response.
In his speech to the Jewish delegation, Benedict did not directly mention the controversy over the drawings.