JNS.org – Pope Francis met with a delegation of leading European rabbis at the Vatican April 20 to discuss Jewish-Christian relations and the ongoing surge of European anti-Semitism.

The delegation was from the Conference of European Rabbis, which represents more than 700 rabbis from synagogues across Europe. In his remarks to the Jewish leaders, Francis noted this coming October’s 50th anniversary of the landmark Vatican II Nostra Aetate document, which ended centuries of anti-Jewish policies in the Catholic Church and ushered in a new era of Jewish-Catholic relations.  

Francis said that it is more important than ever to emphasize “the spiritual and religious dimension of life in Europe,” and that Jews and Christians have a duty of “preserving a sense of the sacred and reminding people that our lives are a gift from God,” Vatican Radio reported. 

The pontiff also addressed the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, saying that the “great tragedy” of the Holocaust should remain a “warning for present and future generations.”

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, told Francis that many European Jews feel “trapped” between the growing anti-Semitism from Muslim immigrants and the secular backlash of many European political leaders. 

Goldschmidt also raised concern regarding the West’s potential conflict with Russia, saying that there is a “new mounting wall between East and West.” He urged the pontiff to help build new bridges and bring the West back from the brink of war.