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October 10, 2013 2:34 pm

Catholic and Jewish Leaders to Discuss Religious Freedom at Spain Conference

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Pope Francis I. Photo: Casa Rosada/Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org With the backdrop of positive steps on Jewish-Catholic relations under Pope Francis I, leaders from both faiths will gather in Madrid, Spain on Oct. 13 for the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ICJLC) to further religious cooperation.

The ICJLC, which is the official Catholic-Jewish dialogue group, was formed in 1967 shortly after the Second Vatican Council’s groundbreaking declaration Nostra Aetate, which disavowed centuries of Catholic Church anti-Semitism and paved the way for improved Catholic-Jewish relations.

Since 1967, the committee has met nearly two dozen times and has issued several important joint declarations concerning matters of faith, ethics and social issues.

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At the upcoming summit, 50 Jewish and Catholic leaders plan to tackle issues of religious freedom and persecution of faiths.

“At this 22nd meeting of the Vatican-Jewish dialogue in Madrid, we’ll address the serious challenges to religious freedom and to the safety and security of houses of worship emerging around the world,” Betty Ehrenberg, chair of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) and representative of the World Jewish Congress on the committee, told JNS.org.

Ehrenberg, who is also the first woman to chair the IJCIC, added, “We’ll also seek ways to help faith communities grapple with the many changes wrought by international political upheavals. Working together, we can surely help both faiths.”

Leaders will also address modern Catholic-Jewish relations in Spain, Spanish-Israeli relations, and anti-Semitism in Europe, given the gathering’s setting in Spain.

Since becoming pontiff in March, Pope Francis has made Jewish-Christian relations a priority for the Catholic Church, continuing the legacy of his predecessors. Recently, Pope Francis praised the Jewish people for “keeping their faith in God” despite centuries of persecution, and also declared in June that a true Christian “cannot be anti-Semitic.”

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