August 18, 2012. (Romereports.com)
There are more than 900 churches in Rome, and among them sits the Great Synagogue. Located in the Jewish quarter known as 'The Ghetto', the temple was built back in 1904. However, the Jewish community here dates back much further.
Jews first began arriving in Italy in the second century before Christ, making it the oldest Jewish community in the Western world.
Riccardo di Segni is the chief rabbi of Rome, and he says 'The Ghetto' has been a big part of how the community developed. RICCARDO DI SEGNI
Chief Rabbi of Rome“Until 1870 they were under papal rule and they were not allowed to live outside anywhere in Rome, just in this neighborhood.”
The temple is open to visitors, where they can enter to see out the square dome, one it's defining features as it's the only one in the city. There is a museum with ancient scrolls and ornaments.
The history of this synagogue is also significant because it's the only one in the world to be visited by two popes.Benedict XVI visited in January of 2010 as a sign of the good relations between the two religions.
However, paving the way for him was Pope John Paul II's historic visit to the Synagogue in 1986. He was the first pope in recorded history to do so. RICCARDO DI SEGNI
Chief Rabbi of Rome“The first visit was a revolution. And changed the approach in the mind of the Christian, in many Catholic populations toward the Jews. It showed that a new era of mutual respect and friendship started.”
After World War II, The Jewish community of Rome was very small. However, it has now risen to about 15,000 people. With many of them emigrating here from Libya in 1967 after The Six Day War.
Today, they still gather in the temple that was built a century ago and has seen many changes during that time.