Pope Francis flexes his Hebrew, wishing the world’s Jews Happy New Year.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis claims he isn’t much of a polyglot, but apparently he had no problem giving new year’s greetings in Hebrew.

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Jewish worshippers pray at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of the Jewish new year last year. (CNS/Reuters)

In a meeting yesterday with a delegation from the World Jewish Congress, the pope wished its president, Ronald Lauder, and Jews worldwide, “Shana Tova” or “good year” as the Jewish New Year of 5774 begins on Rosh Hashanah, Wednesday evening.

The pope also called on world leaders to “do everything to avoid war” and to foster increased dialogue, especially among the world’s religious communities, according to a statement released by the New York-based international organization.

It wasn’t the first time the pope met with an international group of Jewish leaders; in fact, he reiterated the same forceful phrase he pronounced during a June meeting with an international Jewish coalition, in which he said, “Due to our common roots, a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!” Christians must learn about and understand Jewish history and traditions, the pope added at yesterday’s meeting, according to the WJC.

The group said the pope promised to get his point man on relations with Jews, Cardinal Kurt Koch, to do what he could concerning Poland’s ban on the kosher slaughter of animals. The papal meeting also including discussions about attacks against religious minorities, such as the Coptic Christians in Egypt, and increasing restrictions against male circumcision.

Ronald Lauder praised the church for its work in improving Catholic-Jewish relations and said Pope Francis’ leadership “has not only reinvigorated the Catholic Church, but also given new momentum to relations with Judaism.” As Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, the future pope was close to many Jewish leaders and made numerous inroads to improving inter-religious relations.

As a token of thanks during the meeting, Lauder gave the pope a Kiddush cup, used for the blessing of wine on Jewish holidays, and a traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert of honey cake.

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