The meeting was organized on the Catholic side by the French Rev. Patrick Desbois, Secretary-General of the French Commission of Bishops for the Dialogue with the Jews. Father Desbois stressed the fact that this meeting involved a large group of cardinals who have previously had little involvement in dialogue with Jews because they come from India and Africa where Jews are few.
According to a report of the New York Times, officials on both sides said "The issue of Jewish-Catholic ties has assumed some urgency as religious leaders see the likelihood of a papal transition growing nearer. No pope other than John Paul II has done more to try to soothe frictions between Judaism and Christianity, and Jewish leaders are concerned that the work of reconciliation not die with him. "I am sure that the Pope means what he says, but will there be a trickle-down effect?" said Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, which helped convene the meeting. "This meeting is an attempt to make sure it will trickle down throughout the world.""