WJC chief meets with Pope Benedict XVI

Officials express "anxiety over Iran situation;" discuss pursuing dialogue with moderate Muslims.

October 8, 2007 14:08
1 minute read.
WJC chief meets with Pope Benedict XVI

lauder pope 224.88. (photo credit: AP)


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Top officials from the World Jewish Congress met Monday with Pope Benedict XVI to voice concern about Iran but also to encourage pursuing a dialogue with moderate Muslims, participants said. WJC President Ronald Lauder and the group's new secretary general, Michael Schneider, met with Benedict in a private audience at the Vatican. Schneider said the delegation thanked the pope for his work supporting interfaith relations and invited him to meet with senior Jewish leaders during his planned trip to New York next year. "We mentioned our extreme anxiety over the Iran situation, not just because of the Jewish angle but because it was a threat to world stability," Schneider said in a telephone interview. "We were extremely anxious to find some way to be helpful in pushing the Iranians to some kind of sensibility." He said the delegation also repeated the WJC's proposal to reach out to the moderate Muslim world "to establish a dialogue among moderates, and to try to reach some common ground." The WJC has previously proposed expanding the Vatican-Jewish dialogue to include moderate Muslims. Schneider said Benedict was in favor of such a dialogue, and had voiced "frustration" over the stalemate with Iran. Schneider said the delegation also raised the issue of the rise in neo-Nazi groups and anti-Semitic sentiments, particularly in Europe. Schneider acknowledged at a dinner Sunday attended by several Vatican cardinals that relations with the Vatican had been "unfortunately put in abeyance" because of a management shake up at the Jewish organization. But he said the group wanted "to continue the long relationship between us and the Roman Catholic Church," now that a new leadership was in place. The congress, one of the most prominent Jewish organizations, has been beset by a series of problems that culminated in May with the unexpected resignation of then-President Edgar M. Bronfman Sr. Bronfman had fired his longtime deputy, Rabbi Israel Singer, after a 2006 report by the New York attorney general concluded that Singer improperly used WJC funds for personal use. No criminal charges were filed. Lauder, the son of cosmetics magnate Estee Lauder and a former US ambassador to Austria, was named president in June. Schneider was appointed to his post two weeks ago. Founded in 1936, the World Jewish Congress is known for its campaign to win restitution from Swiss banks holding the assets of Holocaust victims, fighting anti-Semitism and lobbying to allow the Jews of the Soviet Union to emigrate.

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