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by Stewart Ain and Steve Lipman

A dozen Jewish leaders and other clerics were invited to meet with Pope Francis one day after his inauguration Tuesday, among them the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who said he hopes the pope will lift the “cloud” hanging over the Vatican.

Among those attending Tuesday’s inaugural Mass was David Michaels, director of inter-communal affairs at B’nai B’rith International.

“It was, as expected, a moment of celebration for Catholics — but it also further signaled the new pope’s personal commitment to the continuance of the unique and historic contemporary friendship between Catholics and Jews,” he wrote in an e-mail interview. “Immediately after his election, Pope Francis sent a personal message to this effect to the chief rabbi of Rome; today, not only did Jewish leaders enjoy a place of prominence and proximity to the pope in St. Peter’s Square, but the Jewish community was the only inter-religious partner group of the Catholic Church to be singled out for specific greeting during the pope’s public remarks.”

Michaels said he views this as “a clear continuation of the practice of Benedict XVI — and a sign of allegiance to the momentous path of John Paul II…more.