PARIS (JTA) - Jews and Christians should get to know each other better, Pope Benedict XVI said at a meeting with French Jewish leaders.
On the first day of his four-day visit to Paris, the pope condemned fanatics and anti-Semitism, called for a strengthening of bonds between Christians and Jews, and pushed for more religion in a staunchly secular French society.
Just before sundown Friday, the pope told Jewish leaders that “our fraternal links are a continual invitation to know each other better and to respect each other.”
At the former monastery in Paris where he spoke, the pope added that “the Church rises up against all forms of anti-Semitism” and “to be anti-Semitic is also to be anti-Christian.” Among the Jewish leaders present for the meeting was Richard Prasquier, the president of the CRIF umbrella organization.
Making his case for a more open view of religion in a country where religion is thought best kept private, Benedict warned that too little “obligation” would serve “the hands of fanaticism and arbitrariness.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy shocked France last December—but seemed to have pleased the pope—when he began making his case for “positive secularism” as an alternative to the existing French mantra that demands strict separation of church and state, among other social codes.
On Sunday, the pope led a public Mass in the town of Lourdes, attracting about 150,000 followers.