‘A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite,’ Pope Francis tells Jewish delegation at Vatican

Pope Francis waving from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Dec. 25, 2015. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis waving from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Dec. 25, 2015. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

(JTA) – Pope Francis lamented anti-Semitic attacks and spread a message to ban anti-Semitism during an audience with Jewish emissaries.

On Monday, the pope for the first time at the Vatican received delegates from the World Congress of Mountain Jews, descendants of Jews who left ancient Persia and settled in the Caucasus.

Two weeks after the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 worshippers, Francis read a statement at the meeting that said “Sadly, anti-Semitic attitudes are also present in our own times.

“A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community,” he said.

The day after the Pittsburgh attack, the Francis said in his weekly prayers that “all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence.”

The Argentina-born pope, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, was close to the victims of the terrorist attack on a Jewish target in his hometown.

Francis also told the Mountain Jews: “I have always sought to emphasize the importance of friendship between Jews and Catholics. It is based on a fraternity grounded in the history of salvation and it finds concrete expression in concern for one another. Together with you, I would like to offer thanks to the Giver of every gift for the blessing of our friendship, which is a reason and an impetus to mutual dialogue.”

The pope closed his remarks with “Shalom aleichem!”

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