(By Christopher Livesay) Vatican City, June 24 - Pope Francis on Monday spoke out against anti-Semitism, calling Christians who are prejudiced against Jews a contradiction in terms. "Given our common roots, a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite," he said at an audience with the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), a broad-based coalition of Jewish organizations representing Judaism to other religions. Francis went on to stress the value of the 1965 Nostra Aetate, which was the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. Part four of the declaration, which was promulgated by Pope Paul VI, states that even though some Jews during the time of Christ called for his death, all Jews then and now cannot be held responsible for 'deicide', as had been commonly preached. "(The Church) firmly condemns the hate, persecution, and all manifestations of anti-Semitism," said Francis. He also recalled the "push" towards dialogue by his predecessors, with "gestures and documents". In addition to Nostra Aetate, one such gesture came in the form of Benedict XVI's historic visit to Israel in May 2009, followed in 2011 when he repudiated blaming the Jewish people for Christ's death in his book Jesus of Nazareth - Part II. In it he also questioned the historical merit of a passage found only in the Gospel of Matthew that was used for centuries to justify the claim of 'deicide'. "Let his blood be upon us and upon our children," says the crowd of Jews after Pontius Pilate washes his hands before them and asks for their judgement leading to Christ's crucifixion. Benedict wrote he was skeptical that "the whole (Jewish) people were present at this moment" and concluded it was the "Temple aristocracy" and a few supporters of the figure Barabbas who were ultimately to blame. But ties with the Jewish community were strained in December 2009 when Benedict, now retired in the Vatican, moved controversial wartime pope Pius XII, accused by many of not speaking out against the Holocaust, closer to sainthood. Despite the controversy over Pius, whose record has split experts for decades, Benedict recognised his predecessor's "heroic virtues" and proclaimed him "venerable" in the second of four stages on the path to sainthood. In the same year Jewish groups were outraged when he lifted the excommunication on four bishops from the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), one of whom was Richard Williamson. Only four days earlier, Williamson was shown in an interview with Swedish television claiming that the facts were "hugely against six million Jews being deliberately gassed" during the Holocaust". In 2011, just months after Benedict decried the concept of Jewish culpability for Christ's death, Williamson argued that the Crucifixion "was truly deicide". "(It was) the killing of God," he added in his online newsletter. "Only the Jews (leaders and people) were the prime agents of the deicide...Until (the Jews) convert at the end of the world, as the church has always taught they will do, they seem bound to choose to go on acting, collectively, as enemies of the true Messiah". The Vatican has since told him that he will not be welcomed back into the fold until he publicly apologizes and disavows the remarks. Since he became the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope on March 13, Francis has reached out to the Jewish community on several occasions. A large delegation of rabbis attended his inaugural mass, underscoring the ties between the two religions. The president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), Renzo Gattegna, said Francis' comments Monday represented "the consolidation of a path started 50 years ago with the publication of Nostra Aetate, with extremely meaningful results, in a sign of dialogue and reciprocal understanding between peoples".