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Pope Francis visits to the Great Synagogue of Rome: “No” to all anti-Semitism

2016-01-18

This woman, the president of the Jewish community of Rome, greeted Pope Francis on behalf of all Roman Jews.

She received him in a particularly symbolic spot, which recalls the terrible night when Nazis arrested more than 1,200 Roman Jews. More than 1,000 were deported to Auschwitz and only 16 returned to Rome alive.

The Pope stood before another memorial and spoke about an attack against the synagogue that killed a two-year-old child and wounded 40 others.

"My name is Nunziante. Listen, you are already a great reformer. Why not reintroduce the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, like when I was a child? It is a good idea. It would be a gesture for us. Very good! You are very nice. We love you very much.”

A few minutes later, the Pope arrived at the entrance of the synagogue, where the Chief Rabbi of Rome welcomed him.

Inside, the Pope greeted hundreds of people, including Muslim representatives who had been invited to the visit.

But it was with survivors of the Holocaust that Pope Francis spent the most time. They were sitting up front. 

In official speeches, the president of the community welcomed the Pope and memorialized victims of persecution in Europe and the Middle East, including persecuted Christians.

RUTH DUREGHELLO 
President, Jewish Community of Rome
"We cannot sit and look. We cannot remain indifferent. We cannot make the same mistakes of the past, when we remained silent and turned our backs. Men and women who did not do anything when train wagons stuffed with Jewish people were sent to the crematoriums. Here are in the first row our survivors of the Shoah.”

The Chief Rabbi of Rome said in his speech that relations between Jews and Christians had improved since the Second Vatican Council.

RICCARDO DI SEGNI
Chief Rabbi of Rome
"We do not receive the Pope to talk about theology. Each system is autonomous, faith is not a commodity to be exchanged or to be negotiated on a political level. We welcome the Pope to reiterate that the religious differences, to be maintained and respected, must not justify hatred and violence. Instead, these must be enthused with friendship and collaboration and the experiences, values, traditions and great ideas which characterize our identity must be used to serve our communities.”

Looking back to his time in Argentina, Pope Francis recalled early friendships with Jews. He said religions must work together.

POPE FRANCIS
"'Yes' to rediscovering Christianity’s Jewish roots; 'no' to every form of anti-Semitism and blame for every wrong, discrimination and persecution deriving from it.”

Further, the Pope paid homage to all victims of the Holocaust, especially those who were present at the moment.

POPE FRANCIS
"Today I wish to remember them in a special way: their suffering, their fear, their tears must never be forgotten. And the past must serve as a lesson for the present and for the future. The Holocaust teaches us that utmost vigilance is always needed to be able to take prompt action in defense of human dignity and peace.”

Before leaving, Pope Francis heard the hymn Ani Maamin, which Jews sang to affirm their faith in God as they were put into gas chambers during the Holocaust.


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