Pope, Bronfman agree on joint plan to fight AIDS in Africa

By Amiram Barkat

Haaretz

Sivan 3, 5765

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Vatican intend to cooperate on an anti-AIDS project in Africa. A statement to this effect is expected to be issued this morning.

The WJC will be partner in funding and managing a Vatican-initiated project to fight AIDS, together with bodies in the Catholic Church and various aid organizations.

The declaration that WJC will be joining the project is to be made during a meeting between Pope Benedictus XVI and a delegation headed by WJC president Edgar Bronfman.

This will be the pope's first meeting with leaders of Jewish organizations since his election some two months ago.

Bronfman and WJC chairman Israel Singer will be accompanied by a large delegation representing the three Jewish movements in the United States and leaders of large Jewish organizations.

WJC officials attribute considerable importance for the organization's involvement in humanitarian projects that reach out to humanity in general, beyond its activity in "Jewish" issues, such as the fight against anti-Semitism and restoring Jewish property.

At first the pope will meet Bronfman and Singer in his bureau. The three will discuss joint WJC and Vatican projects, such as a scheme to help the needy in South America. Then Jewish dignitaries and leaders will join the meeting to discuss plans to fight AIDS.

The dignitaries will include Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican Shmuel Hadas, Chief Rabbinate director general Oded Wiener and heads of the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements in the United States.

Sources in the WJC say the plan will require greater resources and efforts of the organization. In addition to co-financing the project, the WJC will be involved in the organization and management of the plan, estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

In the third part of the meeting, the WJC will present the pope with the organization's activity for inter-religious meetings and suggest the pope sponsors setting up meetings between Jewish amd Muslim religious leaders.

Israel's ambassador to the Vatican Oded Ben-Hur said yesterday that this is the first time the new pope will be giving a private audience to a delegation of Jewish leaders of international organizations. He said the meeting is "another brick in the structure of the relations being formed between the Vatican and Israel and the Jewish nation."