VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI (search) held his first meeting with an international Jewish group Thursday, assuring them he will continue his predecessors' efforts to improve relations between Catholics and Jews.
Benedict acknowledged that the history of their relations has been "complex and often painful" but that he was convinced their "spiritual patrimony" could guide them toward a "future of hope."
The German-born Benedict stressed the need for a "continued reflection on the profound historical, moral and theological questions" raised by the Holocaust (search).
Edgar Bronfman (search), president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement after the meeting that he was confident that under Benedict's leadership "the Catholic Church will continue to build upon its growing relations with the Jewish community."
Rabbi Israel Singer (search), chairman of the World Jewish Congress, said Benedict, in his previous post as head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, provided the theological framework for the steps forward in relations during the papacy of John Paul.
As part of joint humanitarian projects, Singer said Catholics and Jews will work together in providing relief for Africa.