A delegation of leaders of the World Jewish Congress met with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on Friday and asked the pontiff to speak out against the "delegitimization" of Israel.

"We discussed critical issues affecting world Jewry," said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement. “[We] expressed to the Pope how much we value the close relationship we have enjoyed with the Vatican over many years in our quest for a secure Israel and a safer future for Jews everywhere.”

Lauder requested that the pope speak out against the "delegitimization" of Israel, particularly the denial of Jewish links to holy sites such as the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, as well as Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem - a site that is holy to both Jews and Christians.

According to the WJC statement, the pope emphasized the need to continue to combat anti-Semitism in the Christian world, which he characterized as unacceptable. The pope talked about the importance of Jews and Catholics working together to fight anti-Semitism in all its forms, noting Judaism's patrimony to Christianity.

WJC Secretary General Designate Dan Diker asked that the Catholic Church take a leading role in the fight against the "delegitimization" of Israel, which he called a new "politically correct" form of anti-Semitism.

Pope Benedict is said to have responded, saying that the Catholic Church recognizes the deep and historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and expressed his commitment to help bolster better understanding of that connection among people throughout the world.