“This was not just another meeting,” the Jerusalem Post today quotes Haifa Chief Rabbi She’ar-Yashuv Cohen after yesterday’s meeting between Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican with a delegation from the Israeli rabbinate. “This was a special experience, a turning point,  the end  of a crisis. We could not have expected a warmer reception,” said Rabbi Cohen, who headed the delegation. This is a noteworthy change after months of nearly frozen relations between the Vatican and Israel’s chief rabbis, who had rankled at the prayer for the Jews in the Latin revision of the Easter Liturgy.

Benedict told the Israeli group, ”The Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God,” the Jerusalem Post reported. That is perhaps the strongest statement on the subject of Jewish election by any pope in history. From the Jewish side, Rabbi Cohen told the press that the Jews “couldn’t expect more” from the Pope, which must be the first time in history that a Jewish leader has been left with nothing to complain about with respect to the Catholic Church.

Benedict has succeeded in turning what was universally perceived as a disaster for Catholic-Jewish relations after the Williamson incident into a major victory, re-establishing trust with Jewish leaders in a more profound way than existed before.