Top officials from the World Jewish Congress were meeting Monday with Pope Benedict XVI to stress their desire to continue Jewish-Catholic collaboration despite recent internal feuding at the group.
Billionaire and WJC president Ronald Lauder and the group's new secretary general, Michael Schneider, were meeting with Benedict and the Vatican's official in charge of relations with Jews, Cardinal Walter Kasper.
At a dinner Sunday attended by Kasper and several Vatican cardinals, Schneider acknowledged that relations with the Vatican had been "unfortunately put in abeyance" because of a management shakeup at the organization.
But he said the group wanted "to continue the long relationship between us and the Roman Catholic Church," now that a new leadership was in place.
The congress, one of the most prominent Jewish organizations, has been beset by a series of problems that culminated in May with the unexpected resignation of then-president Edgar M. Bronfman Sr.
Bronfman had fired his longtime deputy, Rabbi Israel Singer after a 2006 report by the New York attorney general concluded that Singer had improperly used WJC funds for personal use. No criminal charges were filed.
Lauder, the son of cosmetics magnate Estee Lauder and a former US Ambassador to Austria, was named president in June. Schneider was appointed to his post two weeks ago.
In his remarks Sunday night, Schneider said the WJC was greatly concerned about a rise in neo-Nazi groups and anti-Semitic sentiments and he urged Catholic bishops around the world to join Jewish groups in a "clear condemnation" of racism and anti-Semitism.
He also cited the threat from Iran and the need to build "tripartite bridges of understanding" with moderate Muslims. The WJC has previously proposed the Vatican expand its Catholic-Jewish dialogue to also include moderate Muslims.
Officials said the group also planned to ask for clarification on Benedict's decision to remove restrictions
on celebrating the traditional Latin Mass, which includes a Good Friday prayer that is offensive to Jews.
Founded in 1936, the World Jewish Congress is known for its campaign to win restitution from Swiss banks holding the assets of Holocaust victims, fighting anti-Semitism, and lobbying to allow the Jews of the Soviet Union to emigrate.