by Phil Jacobs
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation announcement on Monday brought reaction from many different parts of the Jewish world.
Well it should have.
Jews have every reason to be watchful and concerned by actions from the Vatican that could impact Jewish-Catholic and Israel-Vatican relations.
Benedict, 85, will step down at month's end, citing his "advanced age" and failing health. He is the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.
"We wish Pope Benedict only good health as he steps down from his position," B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. "He consistently expressed his commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations, and his accessibility to Jewish leaders was significant. We are very grateful for the opportunities we had to meet with him to further the Catholic-Jewish friendship."
B'nai B'rith leaders met with Pope Benedict, as with a line of his predecessors, on multiple occasions. In 2011, Jacobs and Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai B'rith International executive vice president, led a B'nai B'rith delegation to the Vatican to meet with Benedict. Jacobs and Mariaschin spoke with him about the Middle East and the challenges facing Jews and Christians in the region.
Representing the American Jewish community, David Michaels, B'nai B'rith director of United Nations and intercommunal affairs, presented a gift to Benedict from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during the pope's 2008 visit to Washington. Michaels and Alan Schneider, B'nai B'rith World Center director, greeted the pope at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2009.
"Pope Benedict deserves appreciation for his contributions to the great cause of Catholic-Jewish engagement," said Mariaschin. "We hope that Benedict's successor will continue to build upon decades of historic progression in Catholic-Jewish relations."
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