Pope: Peace Depends on Jews, Christians and Muslims
Receives Delegation From B'nai B'rith

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Peace in the Middle East will come about thanks to the commitment of Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope expressed this today with the words "Shalom alechem," on receiving representatives of B'nai B'rith International. The group's stated objective is to keep Jewish traditions and culture alive, as well as to offer humanitarian aid to the needy.

In his address in English to his guests, the Holy Father reiterated his "unfailing hope and prayer for peace in the Holy Land."

"Peace can only come about if it is the concern of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, expressed in genuine interreligious dialogue and concrete gestures of reconciliation," assured the Holy Father.

"All believers are challenged to show that it is not hatred and violence, but understanding and peaceful cooperation which open the door to that future of justice and peace which is God's promise and gift," he added.

Since the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council's declaration "Nostra Aetate" in 1965, which brought a change in relations between Jews and Catholics, leaders of B'nai B'rith visited Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and today, for the first time, Benedict XVI.

Heritage of faith

The German Pope invited the delegation to thank God "for the remarkable transformation that has taken place" in this relationship.

"It is the rich heritage of faith which enables our communities not only to enter into dialogue, but also to be partners in working together for the good of the human family," he said. "Our troubled world needs the witness of people of good will inspired by the truth, revealed on the first page of the Scriptures, that all men and women are created in the image of God, and thus possess an inalienable dignity and worth.

"Jews and Christians are called to work together for the healing of the world by promoting the spiritual and moral values grounded in our faith convictions.

"If we give a clear example of fruitful cooperation, our voice in responding to the needs of the human family will be all the more convincing."

The Holy Father was greeted on behalf of B'nai B'rith by Moishe Smith, its new president, who emphasized the cooperation and shared values that unite Jews and Catholics.

"We have come here -- from several continents -- above all to fulfill the Jewish imperative for expressing gratitude and appreciation," said Smith, of Ottawa.

Call to reason

"You have not only set upon fulfilling your pledge to continue in the path of your predecessor, but even set an example of a religious call to reason, and against extremism," the Canadian said. "In so doing, you have helped to strengthen our hope in mankind, and with it, our hope in our common Creator."

The Jewish representative explained that, despite the terrorism and anti-Semitism evident in some parts of the world, "we do maintain our hopefulness, because we've already seen the potential for ultimately building bridges between peoples -- and we at B'nai B'rith have tried to contribute to this effort with significant humanitarian work, and advocacy for human rights around the world."

On the occasion of Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, the Jewish representatives gave the Pope an artistic depiction, in the design of a menorah, of the words "B'nai B'rith," children of the Covenant.

Smith said: "We hope that your Church -- particularly as it focuses, in a new era, on Latin America, Africa and Asia -- will only continue to engage with us to address poverty and disease, as well as injustice and ignorance, in light of the timeless vision and sacred values that we share."

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