VATICAN CITY -- In a meeting that both sides said was an important bridge-building exercise, a 30-member international delegation of Jews spent an hour Thursday with Pope John Paul II, discussing how to heal old wounds and avoid misunderstandings.

The encounter was the first between Jewish leaders and the pope since 1987, the year the pope met with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim and thus angered some Jews.

The tension caused by that event and controversy over a Carmelite convent at the site of a World War II death camp in Poland have now been largely resolved, said Rabbi Seymour D. Reich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.

"This is the beginning of a new chapter for us," he said after meeting with the pope. "There were tensions over the years. The Carmelite convent was one. The meeting of the pope with Waldheim and with {Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser} Arafat was another. I think we are back on track in terms of dialogue at this level."

After Thursday's meeting, Vatican officials said they would set up a direct line of communication with Jewish leaders to try to avert further rifts. Reich, of Great Neck, N.Y., said the aim was to enable both sides "to deal with political matters that are sensitive to the Jewish community."

The Holy See also revealed plans to grant $100,000 toward the completion of a new convent that will house the Carmelite sisters. Reich said he had been told that the new site, which was close to but not actually on the camp grounds, should be ready before the end of next year.

High on the agenda at Thursday's meeting was antisemitism in Eastern and Central European countries, especially Poland and Hungary, which have predominantly Catholic populations.

The Polish-born pope, who previously had condemned antisemitism, expressed sympathy at the meeting, and added, "Antisemitism does not only exist in the East. It can also be found in the West."

Catholic and Jewish leaders have agreed to a six-point plan to combat antisemitism in the former Communist countries of Europe. It will include setting up joint committees to monitor and deal with racist incidents as they arise and teaching in schools and theological colleges about the danger of racism.

The Vatican also has said it will use its influence to support the introduction of legislation against racial and religious discrimination in the new European democracies.

Officially, Thursday's Jewish-Catholic meeting was called to mark the 25th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate," the document produced by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and intended to end centuries of friction by proclaiming that today's Jews cannot be held responsible for the death of Jesus.

In September, a four-day gathering in Prague of members of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and a delegation from the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations went several steps further, paving the way for Thursday's meeting.

In Prague, papal emissary Archbishop Edward I. Cassidy affirmed that antisemitism is a sin. Cassidy also asked forgiveness on behalf of all Roman Catholics for antisemitism that had in the past, he admitted, "found a place in Christian thought and practice."

On Thursday, Pope John Paul added his personal endorsement to what has become known as the Prague declaration, and stressed Jews' special place in history, speaking of "the absolute singularity of God's choice of a particular people."

He did not comment on the Vatican's resistance to granting official recognition to the state of Israel.

Expressing disappointment, Reich said that in a later meeting with the Holy See's newly installed foreign minister, Archbishop John-Louis Tauran, the Vatican had made it clear it would withhold recognition until the issues of Israel's borders, the status of Jerusalem and of the Palestinian people had been settled.

"We anticipated that response. We have heard it in the past," Reich said. "But we continue to make this request to our Catholic friends because it represents something very basic to us, and because there can be no full normalization of relations between the Catholic and Jewish communities until the Vatican has fully normalized its relations with the Jewish state."