ROME, Jan. 18 (AP)--A leader of Rome's Jewish community praised a new Vatican document that says Christians should respect the Jewish wait for a messiah, but questioned Friday why its release was kept quiet.

The document says both Christians and Jews share the wait for a messiah, although Jews are waiting for the first coming and Christians for the second. ``The Jewish wait for the messiah is not in vain,'' it says.

Tullia Zevi, an Italian Jewish leader who lives in Rome, said the document, part of an ongoing attempt by the Vatican to improve relations with the Jews, ``is very noble in a certain sense. It carries weight.''

But the Vatican did nothing to herald the publication of the document, the work of its most important theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It appeared in Rome bookstores as a small volume called ``The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible.''

``It is very interesting it was kept in the cooler,'' Zevi said. ``People are questioning why.''

The document is viewed as a departure from ``Dominus Iesus,'' a declaration issued by Ratzinger last year that challenged the idea that ``one religion is as good as another.''

That declaration raised criticism from some Jewish and other non-Catholic scholars, and Zevi and others speculate that while the new document was meant to help mend relations, the Roman Catholic church kept it quiet because it feared dissent within its own ranks.

The Vatican denies that. ``There was no intention to hide it,'' said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

Zevi said the publication was a positive development in the often strained relationship between the Vatican and Jews, but one that would take some time to be absorbed by religious scholars and communities.

``It will be interesting to see what the various strands of Judaism and Catholicism will take out of it,'' she said. ``It took a long time to be born and will take a long time to grow up.''

The book - so far published only in French and Italian - was produced by the pontifical commission on bible studies. There was no word on when it would be officially released by the Vatican press office.

Both Jews and Christians believe in the coming of a messiah to save the world. Christians believe Jesus Christ fulfilled the promise once and promised his followers he would return a second time and take them to heaven.

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