Last updated: 18 February, 2013

Israeli prime minister thanks pope ahead of his retirement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday sent a letter to outgoing Pope Benedict XVI thanking him for his work in strengthening interfaith ties, the premier’s office said in a statement.

“In the name of the people of Israel, I would like to thank you for everything you did as pope for the strengthening of ties between Christians and Jews and between the Holy See and the Jewish state,” he wrote, saying he wished the pontiff “long life, health and happiness.”

Benedict began a week-long spiritual retreat out of the public eye on Monday ahead of his resignation on February 28.

Netanyahu and other Israeli and Jewish leaders heaped praise on the pontiff when he made his shock resignation announcement last week, saying that through his warmth toward the Jews he helped counter anti-Semitism around the world.

For the Jewish community, one of the pope’s landmark achievements was his exoneration of the Jewish people from responsibility for the death of Jesus.

In a book published in 2011, the pope wrote that those responsible for Christ’s crucifixion were the “aristocracy of the temple” in Jerusalem and the “masses” — not “the Jewish people as a whole.”