Faith is a call to dialogue and peacemaking, pope tells rabbis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians and Jews are called to bear witness to God's word through dialogue and "to his peace with our actions," Pope Francis said in a message to the Conference of European Rabbis.

The pope welcomed the delegation to the library of the Apostolic Palace Nov. 6, but told them he wasn't feeling well so he would hand them a copy of his prepared speech rather than read it to them.

The director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, said later that "Pope Francis has a bit of a cold and a long day of audiences. He wanted to greet the European rabbis individually and for that reason he handed them his address. Otherwise, the pope's activities continue as normal."

In the text, Pope Francis told the rabbis, "My first thought and prayer goes, above all else, to everything that has happened in the last few weeks" with the Hamas attack on Israel and Israel's response in Gaza.

"Yet again violence and war have erupted in that land blessed by the Most High, which seems continually assailed by the vileness of hatred and the deadly clash of weapons," the pope's text said. "The spread of antisemitic demonstrations, which I strongly condemn, is also of great concern."

Amid "the darkness of conflict," he wrote, those who believe in God "are called to build fraternity and open paths of reconciliation for all and before all, in the name of the Almighty."

"Not weapons, not terrorism, not war, but compassion, justice and dialogue are the fitting means for building peace," Pope Francis wrote.

The life of faith, he said, is a life of dialogue -- with God and among the people whom God created.

"The Word of the Most High is the light that illumines the paths of life: it directs our own steps to the search for our neighbor, to acceptance and to patience; certainly not to the brusque passion of vengeance and the folly of bitter hatred," he continued. "How important it is, therefore, for us believers to be witnesses of dialogue!"

"To become builders of peace, we are called to be builders of dialogue, not only with our own strengths and abilities, but with the help of the Almighty," the pope wrote.

For Christians, dialogue with Judaism is especially important "because we have Jewish roots. Jesus was born and lived as a Jew," the pope said. "We need Judaism to understand ourselves better."

Pope Francis noted that when St. John Paul II made his historic visit to the synagogue of Rome, he addressed members of the Jewish community as "our beloved brothers" and "our older brothers."

"Therefore, one could say that ours is more than an interreligious dialogue," he said. "It is a family dialogue."