Pope Francis on Monday wished the Jewish people a happy new year ahead of Rosh Hashanah celebrations and called for interfaith dialogue between the world’s religious communities and leaders.
At a meeting with World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder in the Vatican, the pontiff said he opposed fundamentalism in any faith. He also wished for a sweet and peaceful year 5774, which Jews around the world would welcome Wednesday night according to the Hebrew calendar.
In a press release by the WJC, the organization said Pope Francis “expressed concern about the bans on kosher slaughter in Poland,” and condemned attacks against religious minorities such as the Coptic Church in Egypt.
Referring to the conflict in Syria, “the pope called the killing of human beings unacceptable and said world leaders must do everything to avoid war,” according to the WJC.
Pope Francis also reiterated a statement made last June, saying “a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite,” and adding that “to be a good Christian it is necessary to understand Jewish history and traditions.”
The statement said Pope Francis used the traditional Hebrew greeting of “Shanah Tovah.”
Lauder presented the Catholic leader with a Kiddush cup used for the blessing of wine on Jewish holidays, along with a honey cake — a traditional Rosh Hashanah desert.
Francis has met with Jewish leaders and representatives on a number of occasions since his election to the papacy in March. The WJC called it his “first private audience with an international Jewish leader” since becoming pope.
The delegation also included WJC leaders Robert Singer and Maram Stern and the heads of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Jack Terpins and Claudio Epelman.