Israeli Rabbi at Vatican Meeting Condemns Iranian President; Becomes First Jew to Address Synod of Bishops

A top rabbi addressing a worldwide meeting of Roman Catholic bishops at the Vatican on Monday condemned the Iranian president's verbal attacks on Israel.

Shear-Yashuv Cohen, a chief rabbi in the Israeli city of Haifa, became the first Jew to address such a meeting, known as a synod of bishops.

In his speech Cohen did not name Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but denounced "the terrible and vicious words" spoken by "the president of a certain state in the Middle East" at the U.N. General Assembly last month.

Ahmadinejad lashed out at Israel and accused "Zionists" of controlling the world's economy. The speech drew harsh condemnations by Israeli and Jewish leaders, and Cohen said the "false and malicious accusations" were an incitement to anti-Semitism.

Addressing the gathering of 253 bishops, the rabbi spoke of the "long, hard and painful history" of Jewish-Catholic relations, calling it "a history of blood and tears."

He called his appearance a signal of "hope and a message of love," noting efforts to improve relations that began under Pope John XXIII and that reached a climax under John Paul II.

He spoke of the meaning of the Bible to the Jewish people. The bishops are discussing the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Catholics.