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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pope Francis wishes 'shanah tovah' to Jews worldwide

In a meeting with Jewish leaders on Monday, Pope Francis sent Rosh Hashana greetings to Jews worldwide and expressed "concern" at the ban on kosher slaughter in Poland, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Hosting World Jewish Congress heads at the Vatican, the pope said he was directing a cardinal to investigate the situation in Poland, where a ban has been in effect on ritual slaughter since January.

According to JTA, Francis met with a WJC delegation headed by the organization's president, Ronald Lauder, who presented the pontiff with a kiddush cup and a honey cake.

A WJC statement said the pontiff and Lauder spoke about the situation in Syria "and agreed to speak out against attacks on religious minorities, such as Coptic Christians in Egypt and against trends to restrict well-established religious practices such as circumcision."

In addition, according to the statement, "The pope specifically expressed concern about the bans on kosher slaughter in Poland and directed Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Vatican's Commission for Relations with the Jews, to investigate and host a follow-up meeting as early as next week."

The WJC said the pope, using the Hebrew phrase "shana tova" (happy new year), asked Lauder to convey holiday wishes to Jewish communities worldwide. The group said the pontiff reiterated a statement made last June that "a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite" and said that "to be good a Christian it is necessary to understand Jewish history and traditions."

Referring to the conflict in Syria, JTA reported, "the pope called the killing of human beings unacceptable and said world leaders must do everything to avoid war," according to the WJC.

The delegation, according to JTA, also included WJC leaders Robert Singer and Maram Stern and the heads of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Jack Terpins and Claudio Epelman.

Poland made about 500 million euros ($650 million) per year exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim countries. But the business practically stopped after ritual slaughter was banned in January under pressure from animal rights groups, which say it causes unnecessary suffering because livestock are not stunned before being killed.

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