VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into a Polish ban on the ritual kosher slaughter of animals, the president of the World Jewish Congress said Monday.
Ritual slaughter, including traditional Jewish kosher and Muslim halal practices, has been banned in Poland since January 1, after the country's Constitutional Court deemed it incompatible with animal-rights law.
The Pope met Monday with Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) — which represents Jewish communities outside Israel — to discuss the ban, among other issues.
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"The Pope specifically expressed concern about the bans on kosher slaughter in Poland and directed Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Vatican's Commission for Relations with the Jews, to investigate and host a follow-up meeting as early as next week," the WJC said after their talks.
The Jewish and Muslim communities each number around 20,000 to 30,000 people in Poland, a country of some 38 million people.
European Union rules on the slaughter of livestock are designed to minimize suffering for animals when they are killed, but religious groups are exempted from a requirement that animals be stunned before death.
Kosher and halal slaughter require an animal be killed by slitting its throat.
The WJC said the Pope and Lauder had also discussed bans on other religious practices elsewhere in the world, including circumcision.
A regional court in Cologne in western Germany ruled last year that circumcision was a crime, drawing international criticism.
Germany's parliament has since passed a law explicitly allowing religious circumcision, clarifying the murky legal status the ruling had cast on the practice.
The WJC said the Pope had expressed his opposition to restrictions on religious freedom.
According to Lauder, the Pope has given fresh impetus to relations between Jews and Christians, which have "never in the past 2,000 years. . . been so good."