The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed Sunday deep gratitude to Pope Francis following remarks he made to Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman in which the Pope made clear that those who do not accept Israel’s right to exist are “guilty of anti-Semitism.”
Pope Francis told Cymerman that, “…we must distinguish between the Jewish people and the state of Israel – and their right to exist – and the current governments of each state. Whoever does not accept the first two is guilty of anti-Semitism.”
In a letter to the Pope, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman, and ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs Rabbi David Sandmel said his words “send an unequivocal message to those who reject the legitimacy of the state of Israel as well as to those who question or distort the Holy See’s stand on the issue.”
“Not only has Pope Francis placed a tremendous importance on Catholic-Jewish relations throughout his life, he has also always understood and respected the religious significance of Israel to the Jewish people,” Mr. Foxman and Rabbi Sandmel said. “His comments remind us that the Church, the Jewish people and the state of Israel share an unshakable friendship.”
The ADL called the Vatican’s recent recognition of a Palestinian state as a “difference between friends,” and applauded the Pope’s desire to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.
As leader of the Catholic world, the Pope's stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict is closely scrutinized, and has led to several high-profile controversies.
In May 2014, he called the Palestinian Authority (PA) the "state of Palestine," and made an unexpected stop at the security barrier between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Judea to pray at a section with "Pope we need to see someone to speak about justice. Bethlehem look (sic) like Warsaw ghetto. Free Palestine" spray-painted on it.