BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI received a private audience of Latin American Jewish leaders from 12 countries.

The group, which met Thursday with the pope, was led by Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins.

According to Latin American Jewish Congress, the pope said that “dynamic Jewish communities exist throughout Latin America, especially in Argentina and Brazil, living alongside a large Catholic majority.”

He said that starting with the years of the Vatican Council II from 1962 to 1965, relations between Jews and Catholics have become stronger overall and in the region, and that “various initiatives are afoot to make our mutual friendship deeper.”

Also present at the meeting were World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who previously met the pontiff in 2007 and 2010; World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Dan Diker; and leaders of the Jewish communities of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Speaking in Spanish, Benedict told the delegation that the 1965 Nostra Aetate declaration on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions continued “to be the basis and the guide for our efforts towards promoting greater understanding, respect and cooperation between our communities.” The declaration condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and laid the foundations for a new theological evaluation of the Church’s relationship with Judaism.

Terpins underlined that the relationship between Jews and Catholics in the region was “an example not only of positive coexistence but of friendship and cooperation.”