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Pope Francis

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Jews and Catholics relationship, slowly strengthening

2010-01-18

After John Paul II visited the synagogue in Rome back in 1986, inter religious dialogue hit historic levels. John Paul II was the first pope to walk into a synagogue since the time of the apostles.

Elio Toaff
Chief Emeritus Rabbi (Rome)

“It was very emotional. I never thought he would meet me with open arms. When he hugged me I felt something was changing. I felt as if one chapter was closing and another was starting.”

Riccardo Di Segni
Chief Rabi of Rome

“It was important for the current pope to follow in his predecessors footsteps in order to show it wasn’t just a one time visit, he did it to show that he will continue the dialogue.”

Benedict XVI has continued what his predecessor started and has visited synagogues on two occasions. One in Koln, Germany, the other in New York. He also visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Jews consider it one of their most sacred places.

But the Jewish community in Rome sees this not only as an opportunity to continue the dialogue John Paul II started, but also to reflect a friendship that needs to be strengthened.

Riccardo Di Segni
Chief Rabi of Rome
“We need to strengthen and reinforce our relationship and respect. And show that both sides are willing to discuss our issues. Issues that can either seperate us or unite us.”

The visit almost didn’t happen after Benedict XVI proclaimed Pius XII “venerable”. The Jewish community in Rome recognizes Pius XII saved the lives of many Jews, but fault him for not condemning the Nazi regime. However, other historians believe if Pius XII would have taken action against Hitler’s regime, more Jews would have lost their lives.

The visit to Rome’s synagogue falls on a special day for the Catholic and Jewish communities of Rome. It’s a holiday celebrated together by both. Jews in Rome recognize the day as the anniversary of a strong storm that was able to miraculously put out a fire in a ghetto in Rome.

Riccardo Di Segni
Chief Rabi of Rome

“When we decided on the date of the pope’s visit, we noticed it coincided with a Jewish holiday in Rome and the Sunday that the Catholic Church in Rome dedicates to relations with the Jews. All these things will make it a very special day.”

A special day, for a historic visit bringing together two of Rome’s largest communities.

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