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Pope Francis reaches out to Jews

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Like his predecessor, Pope Francis reached out to Rome's Jewish community at the very start of his pontificate, pledging to continue to strengthen the increasingly close ties between Catholics and Jews.

Just hours after he was elected the first non-European pope in history, Francis sent a letter to Rome's chief rabbi Riccardo di Segni, saying he hoped to "contribute to the progress that relations between Jews and Catholics" have seen since the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.

Jewish leaders welcomed the election of a pontiff seen as an ally when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Israeli President Shimon Peres said Francis would be a "welcome guest in the Holy Land" while Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said the new pope "always had an open ear for our concerns."

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