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At Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, B'nai B'rith Looks to New Era in Catholic-Jewish Relations

BBI Urges Decisive “Moral Response” to Iranian Policies of Terror and Hate

Contact:  Sharon Bender, B’nai B’rith International, 202-857-6699, 202-297-0003, sbender@bnaibrith.org

ROME, Dec. 18 /Christian Newswire/ -- Senior B’nai B’rith International leaders and supporters met today in a private session with Pope Benedict XVI.  B’nai B’rith President Moishe Smith delivered a message of cooperation and shared values, stressing the common interests and concerns that both communities share.

During the private audience – on the third day of Chanukah, and one week before Christmas – the B’nai B’rith contingent urged the Pope to lead “an urgent and unwavering moral response” to global extremists, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who hosted a Holocaust-denial conference last week.

Smith thanked the Pope for the meaningful steps he has taken in the last year – his pilgrimage to Auschwitz, his visit to an historic synagogue in Germany, and his warm reception of the leaders of the State of Israel, including, most recently, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.  He congratulated the Pope for his principled religious calls for reason when some corrupt religion into serving as “a tool and cover” for hatred. And, Smith invited the Pope to work together with B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish community of the world to address “poverty and disease, as well as injustice and ignorance, in light of the timeless vision and sacred values” that both religions share.

The B’nai B’rith leaders also marked the significant recent deepening of Catholic-Jewish relations.  B’nai B’rith’s establishment of a new Office of Intercommunal Affairs at the world’s oldest Jewish humanitarian, advocacy, and social action agency is an indication of a commitment to the furtherance of this friendship.

During the BBI delegation’s trip to Rome, the group also met with other high-level Vatican officials, Italian government leaders, and members of the Italian Jewish community.  

The visiting delegation was led by President Moishe Smith of Ottawa, Canada, and by Daniel S. Mariaschin of Washington, D.C., the organization’s executive vice president.  The delegation included William Bram, member, Board of Governors, New York, N.Y.; Sandro Di Castro, president, B’nai B’rith of Rome, Italy; Paolo Foa, member, Board of Governors, Milan, Italy; Ambassador Joseph Harari, chairman, BBI Council on United Nations Affairs, Panama City, Panama; Daniele Leoni, president, B'nai B'rith of Milan, Italy; Bruce Pascal, development chairman, Washington, D.C.; Ruth Resnikoff, board member, BBI Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, Boca Raton, Fla.; and David Michaels, director of Intercommunal Affairs, New York, N.Y.

With members throughout the United States and more than 50 countries worldwide, B’nai B’rith International is a national and global leader in the area of United Nations reform, international affairs, domestic policy, senior services, and Jewish identity.  As the oldest and most widely known and respected Jewish organization, B’nai B’rith advocates for Jewish unity, security, and continuity in the United States and worldwide.  Visit www.bnaibrith.org for more information.