Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday sent Pope Benedict XVI a letter of appreciation on behalf of the State of Israel, a week after the pontiff announced his imminent resignation from office. Benedict said he would step down as head of the Catholic Church at the end of February.

“On behalf of the people of Israel, I want to thank you for all you have done as Pope to strengthen relations between Christians and Jews and between the Vatican and the Jewish State,” Netanyahu wrote. “I thank you also for courageously defending Judeo-Christian values and the roots of our common civilization during your time as pontiff. I have no doubt that these values, which were so essential to building the modern world, are no less critical to securing a future of security, prosperity and peace.”

Netanyahu also praised Benedict’s commitment to religious pluralism, recounting his 2009 trip to Israel as an attempt on the pope’s part to build positive relations between Jews and Christians. “I remember fondly our meeting, in which you referred to Judaism as Christianity’s elder brother and in which you reaffirmed your commitment to a cooperative future between Christians and Jews,” Netanyahu wrote.