VATICAN CITY – In an essential dialogue amid escalating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder met today with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
During their audience Thursday, Amb. Lauder appealed to the pope to continue to leverage his moral authority to urge for the safe return of Israeli hostages held in Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas' assault on the Jewish State. The pope called for the release of all hostages and concern about their fate. He has also previously acknowledged of Israel’s right to self-defense.
“We ask Your Holiness to use your power, to use your strength, to get these hostages released,” Amb. Lauder said in addressing the pontiff. “You may be the only person who has the moral authority to do this. I believe that G-d in his way has brought us here today to ask you to do this, on behalf of all the Jewish people in the world.”
The meeting dovetailed with the inauguration of the World Jewish Congress’ representative office to the Holy See, marking the establishment of the first-ever liaison office of a Jewish organization on Vatican property and signifying deepening Jewish-Catholic ties. It also comes days after the WJC’s emergency Executive Committee meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, where leaders from more than 40 Jewish communities gathered to develop a unified response plan to bolster support for Israel.
At the office opening event, Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, emphasized the profound resonance of the occasion. Parolin reiterated to journalists that the Vatican strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks against Israel. He also emphasized Pope Francis’ call for the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Amb. Lauder said, “For decades, the World Jewish Congress has tirelessly pursued a deeper bond between world Jewry and the Catholic Church. Our Vatican office’s inauguration crystallizes the unwavering dedication of both the WJC and the Holy See to mend historical rifts and sculpt a future underscored by unity, particularly as Israel counters devastating assaults.”
In a symbolic gesture, Amb. Lauder bestowed upon Pope Francis a seminal document, “Kishreinu” (Hebrew for “Our Bond”). This document encapsulates the intricate historical and cultural tapestry binding Jewish and Catholic communities around the globe. It stands as the WJC’s heartfelt response to the groundbreaking Nostra Aetate Declaration by the Second Vatican
Council in 1965, which heralded a modern chapter in relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish people.
The “Kishreinu” initiative was first introduced to the Vatican in November 2022. At that time, the WJC chose the revered setting of the Holy See for its Executive Committee assembly, a first for any Jewish entity.
On that occasion, Pope Francis extolled the “Kishreinu” initiative, saying, “Our intertwined communities of faith shoulder the sacred duty of weaving a world imbued with brotherhood, challenging inequalities, championing justice and ensuring peace transcends ethereal realms to root firmly in our shared reality.”
About the World Jewish Congress