JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday for statements in a forthcoming book exonerating the Jews of responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ.
"I commend you for forcefully rejecting, in your recent book, a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries," Netanyahu wrote to the pontiff in a letter, a copy of which was released by his office.
"My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come," the letter added.
In the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth," Benedict analyzes the Gospel narrations of Jesus' betrayal and execution to show that all sinners -- and thus humanity as a whole -- share the responsibility for the death of Christ.
Excerpts of the book were released by the Vatican on Wednesday, with publication set for March 10.
In his letter Thursday, Netanyahu also offered to meet with the pope.
"I look forward to seeing you again soon and to expressing my deep appreciation for you in person," he wrote.
The notion of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus has over the centuries served as an excuse for anti-Semitism, persecution, pogroms and murder. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council officially repudiated the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death.