World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder congratulated Cardinal Jorge María Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, on his election as Pope Francis I on Wednesday.
"Pope Francis I is no stranger to us. In recent years he attended many interfaith events co-organized by the WJC and our regional affiliate, the Latin American Jewish Congress," Lauder wrote, adding he had met Bergoglio in Buenos Aires in 2008.
Lauder praised the new pope as "an experienced man, someone who is known for his open-mindedness ... a man of dialogue, a man who is able to build bridges with other faiths".
"We look forward to continuing the close relationship that has been fostered between the Catholic Church and the Jews over the past two decades."
After praising the work of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI for Catholic-Jewish relations, Lauder said, "We are convinced that new pontiff will continue on this path, that he will speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism both within and without the Catholic Church, that he will take action against clerics who deny or belittle the Holocaust and that he will strengthen the Vatican's relationship with Israel."
Rabbi David Rosen, the director of interfaith affairs for the American Jewish Committee, was quoted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as saying the new pope is a "warm, sweet and modest man."
Rosen also told JTA that Bergoglio "showed solidarity with the Jewish community" following the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 in which 85 people were killed.
President Shimon Peres on Thursday conveyed his best wishes to the new pope and invited him to visit Israel.
At a meeting with Polish Catholic leaders in Jerusalem, Peres said that the ties between the Jewish people and the Vatican are better now than they have ever been in the past 2,000 years.
Peres said the pope is an important figure not just to Catholics, but to the entire world.
"The pope can carry with him a good spirit, a spirit of peace and hope," Peres said.