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Pope Francis Rosh Hashanah Greetings Wishes Jews Worldwide A Sweet New Year

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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis receives a delegation of members of the World Jewish Congress, including its President Ronald S.Lauder, second from right sitting next to the pontiff, at the Vatican, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. | AP

Pope Francis wished Jews around the world a "sweet and peaceful" new year, and used the traditional Jewish greeting of "Shana Tova," according to a statement from the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

The pope's first private audience with an international Jewish leader took place on Monday at the Vatican, with Ronald S. Lauder, the President of the WJC. Pope Francis asked him to "convey his New Year message to Jewish communities world-wide and said he also needed a sweet year because of the important decisions lying ahead."

Lauder presented Pope Francis with a Kiddush cup and a honey cake, traditionally eaten by Jews on this occasion to symbolize a sweet new year.

The two religous leaders also addressed the Syria situation and agreed to speak out against attacks on religious minorities, including Coptic Christians in Egypt, as well as trends that threaten to restrict ancient religious practices like circumcision. Regarding Syria, the pope said that the killing of human beings was "unacceptable," and declared that "world leaders must do everything to avoid war."

Pope Francis paid tribute to Christianity's Jewish roots by reiterating a statement he made last June that "to be a good Christian it is necessary to understand Jewish history and traditions." In response, Lauder said, "Pope Francis’ leadership has not only reinvigorated the Catholic Church but also given a new momentum to relations with Judaism. Never in the past 2,000 years have relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people been so good."

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