We publish here the brief address of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal at the international conference to honor the memory of Pope John XXIII, held in Jerusalem on April 29, 2013.

I wholeheartedly thank the organizers of this conference, a vivid sign of the heritage left to us by Pope John XXIII. Today, we come together, Jews and Catholics to honor his memory.

Blessed Pope John XXIII was a man of faith, hope and charity. Humble and always human, he left us a heritage, particularly in the Second Vatican Council, which he inaugurated, that continues to shape the Catholic Church today. The great Popes that followed in his footsteps continued to develop his insights and intuitions, “cultivating the Church as a flourishing garden of life” at the heart of the modern world. A few weeks ago, our new Pope, Francis, began his pontificate and many have compared him to Pope John, in his gentle humility, his radiant joy, his insistent dialogue with the world.

In the State of Israel, we constitute the only Catholic Church that has ever lived as a small minority within an overwhelming Jewish majority. Most of our faithful are Palestinian Arabs and the tragic lack of peace, justice, reconciliation and pardon creates an atmosphere of hostility which we must all work hard to overcome. Yet, the Council’s vision of a new relationship between Christian and Jew has been foundational here too.

In the Synod of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land (a Synod that took place from 1995 to 2000), the Local Church published its own version of Nostra Aetate. The document analyses Christian relations with both Muslims and Jews within the context of the Holy Land, promoting fraternal relations. With regard to our Jewish brothers and sisters, the document stated: “We are in everyday contact with the concrete Jewish presence in this Holy Land, and this obliges us to reflect on how we might formulate the relationship, consonant with our faith, our Christian evangelical values and our reality. The Jewish other is a vibrant reality which we cannot forget or ignore.”

The Synod led to the establishment of a local commission for dialogue with the Jewish people, recently renewed as an inter-ritual commission including representatives of all Catholic Churches. In our Seminary in Beit Jala, where our young men train to be priests, students study Judaism in order to promote understanding of the Jewish tradition and facilitate dialogue with Jews. Likewise, our religion teachers, who train at Bethlehem University, receive instruction in Jewish history and religion. These are all important fruits of the Local Synod, contextualizing the insights of the Council.

We must also mention the Vicariate of Saint James in Israel, made up of our Hebrew-speaking, Catholic communities that live immersed in the Jewish Israeli world. They pray in Hebrew, nourishing the Jewish roots of our faith in the very language of the Old Testament. They are an integral part of our Patriarchate.

Pope John and Jules Isaac agreed that a “teaching of contempt” must give way to a discourse of respect for those who are different. I call out to all of us gathered here: let us strive especially to educate our children for a better future. This must be adopted by one and all in the Holy Land too.

I end with Pope John’s words in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, published exactly 50 years ago this month, and ever relevant: “May the Lord banish from the souls of men whatever might endanger peace. May He transform all men into witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love. May He illumine with His light the minds of rulers, so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may also guarantee them the fairest gift of peace.”