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Cardinals, Rabbis Vow to Fight Anti-Semitism - 2004-01-21

Cardinals and chief rabbis from around the world wrapped up the largest ever meeting in New York Tuesday between top Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders. The conference of a dozen Cardinals and six chief rabbis paid tribute to Pope John Paul, whose visit to the Holy Land in 2000 helped usher in a new era in Catholic-Jewish relations.

The religious leaders said in a statement that they would continue the dialogue that the elderly Polish-born Pontiff, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, has promoted.

The Cardinals and rabbis also vowed to stand up to a rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and to hold follow-up conferences of the issue.

The participants visited the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Untied States and expressed concern about continuing worldwide hatred and bigotry, particularly among religious groups.

Cardinal Ivan Dias of Bombay, India said Catholic-Jewish dialogue is one positive way to foster understanding among different religions and minorities. "The ideal would be that everybody would be included, but it is good to take a first step before you walk a mile and we, who have been the closest, the Jews and the Christians, we could walk together and set a good trend also so that we could walk together also with other groups," said Mr Dias.

Although no meetings have been planned with Muslim leaders, the Chief Rabbi of Brazil, Henry Sobel, called on Catholics to serve as a bridge between Jews and Muslims, at a time when, according to recent studies, tension in the Middle East has been linked to an increase in anti-Semitism. "I believe that world peace is too serious a matter to be left exclusively in the hands of politicians. There can not be peace in the world without peace between religions. I believe the synagogue, the church and the mosque must lead the way," said Mr. Sobel. "I believe we have to go much further, not only in so far as the consolidation of Catholic-Jewish relations. We have to open the dialogue to our Muslim brothers and sister."

The New York-based World Jewish Congress hosted the meeting between clergy from nations that also included Angola, Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and the United States.