pope francisPope Francis has told a delegation of rabbis and Jewish leaders at the Vatican that Christians and Jews must “preserve the religious sense of men and women today,” as he discussed the “threat” of atheism.

The leader of the Catholic Church also told the Conference of European Rabbis that “every Christian must be firm in deploring anti-Semitism, and show their solidarity with the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Joseph Dwek, the leader of the Spanish Portuguese Congregation, and Shechita UK director Shimon Cohen were among those representing Britain.

Several delegates shared the pontiff’s concern about attacks against Jews on European soil in recent months, with the pope describing terrorism in Paris and Copenhagen as “troubling”.

Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt said Francis was in a “unique position as the leader of western Christianity… to help build new bridges and bring the East and the West back from the brink of war”.