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Vatican leader on Jewish relations sees progress since 1990's 'low ebb'

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The retiring leader of Vatican relations with Jews says conditions have improved greatly from the ''low ebb'' in 1990 when he took over.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews gave the assessment in prepared remarks to the American Jewish Committee on Wednesday. He cited past tensions over a convent at Auschwitz and Vatican visits by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Kurt Waldheim, the former United Nations leader whose Nazi-era history brought criticism.

The convent has since been moved, the Holy See has established full diplomatic relations with Israel and issued a 1998 document on the Holocaust, and last year Pope John Paul II visited Jewish holy sites in Israel.

Cassidy said Roman Catholicism has an ''irreversible commitment to deepening this relationship.''

In the face of growing secularization, technological advances and economic globalization, he said, the world needs to hear the religious and moral ''truths that God has made available to us, Jews and Christians alike.''

The Australian cardinal spoke as the fifth recipient of the Jewish group's Isaiah Interreligious Award, first given to U.S. Protestant evangelist Billy Graham in 1977.

Cassidy's successor in Jewish relations and the Vatican Christian unity council is Germany's Cardinal Walter Kasper.

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