Israel’s chief rabbis responded on Monday evening to the surprise announcement by Pope Benedict XVI, that he will be resigning from his post on February 28.
Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, said following the announcement, “During his tenure we had the best relationship between the Church and the Chief Rabbinate, and we hope that this trend will continue. I think he should be respected for promoting relations between Judaism, Christianity and Islam throughout the world. I wish him good health and a long life.”
Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, also responded to the Pope’s resignation and said, “Pope Benedict XVI should be praised for his steadfastness and his war against any instance of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, at home and abroad.”
Rabbi Amar added, “Many of his sayings that were the basis for the relationship between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Jewish people and the Church should be remembered. Specifically, his saying that G-d has not forsaken the covenant with the Jewish people should be remembered. The Pope will also be remembered as having said, 'The Jews are our older brothers’, and even added that ‘the Jews are our ancestors.’
"I pray for the health and longevity of this warrior of justice, and call on the entire world to learn from his stance and condemn all manifestations of anti-Semitism,” concluded Rabbi Amar.
Pope Benedict XVI explained that he will be resigning from as he no longer has the strength to fulfill the required duties.
The 85-year-old pope said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months “to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter," he said according to a statement released by the Vatican.
The European Rabbinical Council said that it hoped that Pope Benedict XVI's replacement would continue to fight anti-Semitism, as Benedict himself had continued from his predecessor.
In the wake of Benedict's announcement that he planned to resign at the end of the month, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, head of the group, said that Benedict had made “historic strides” in combating anti-Semitism.
“He continued the policies of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in reducing the historic levels of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church, by staging visits to synagogues and conducting dialog with the Jewish people, and by improving relations with the State of Israel.