At the meeting, Pope Francis greeted Christian and non-Christian leaders alike, with representatives in attendance from several major religions. At his installation, the pope publicly offered special greetings to Jews, who were seated in close proximity to Francis. In meeting with religious leaders he affirmed his commitment to Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council declaration that transformed Catholic-Jewish relations, and to the path of his predecessors.
“I’m very pleased to hear that on the first day of his papacy, Pope Francis is already picking up where Pope Benedict left off with regard to the church’s relations to the Jews,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Today really demonstrates that the relationship between our religions is important to him. We look forward to working with him in the future.”
Though Pope Francis did not delve deeply into his plans for Catholic relations with any religion, his actions as a cardinal in Argentina forecast well for the Jewish community. In November, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the keynote speaker at B’nai B’rith’s Kristallnacht commemoration in Buenos Aires, where he helped light a candle in commemoration of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. He has also consistently addressed Jews with affinity as “elder brothers.”
Michaels warmly greeted the pope and conveyed the good wishes of B’nai B’rith members around the world, expressing hope in Francis’ friendship with Israel and the Jewish people.
“It’s encouraging that the Jewish people, including our organization, already have ties to the new pope,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “I think this bodes well for the future as we continue to advance the interreligious dialogue between the two communities.”