Pope Francis, friend of Jewish-Christian dialogue

(Buenos Aires, 14 March 2013) — The International Council of Christians and Jews congratulates its Catholic friends, colleagues, and everyone within the worldwide Catholic community on the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina as Pope Francis. As the first non-European pope in over 1200 years, his election testifies to the growing importance of the Global South.

Following in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the former Cardinal Bergoglio has a reputation for simplicity and concern for the poor. He has stated his clear commitment to socio-economic justice. Therefore, we welcome a papacy dedicated to furthering the cause of human rights and human dignity for all.

The ICCJ General Secretary arrived in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’ home town, the evening Cardinal Bergoglio was elected. Our friends in Argentina told him that the new Pope is a good friend of the Council of Christians and Jews in Argentina and of the Buenos Aires Jewish community—one of the largest in the world—in times of tragedy and joy. Cardinal Bergoglio closely worked together with the leadership of the Seminario Rabbinico in Buenos Aires on publications and on several occasions he made it clear that the Jewish-Christian dialogue is close to his heart.

Although not a proponent of interreligious dialogue in the modern sense, St. Francis of Assisi was renowned for seeking open, honest, and peaceful conversation with Islamic leaders—even in the midst of the Crusades. 

With his chosen papal name and his own personal story, we know Pope Francis will continue the important work done by his immediate predecessors in strengthening interreligious dialogue and cooperation, particularly between Jews and Christians.

Planning its 2014 conference in Buenos Aires and the 2015 conference in Rome, ICCJ also looks forward to enhancing the friendship between Jews and Christians and continuing its friendly cooperation with the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.

The ICCJ wishes Pope Francis every divine blessing during his pontificate.