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Rome Reports

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January 2016: Visits to the synagogue and meeting with Google and Apple CEOs

One of the pope's first ceremonies this year was the baptism of 26 babies in the Sistine Chapel.   The 13 boys and 13 girls are children of Vatican employees. The pope reminded their parents that faith is the best legacy they can give their children.   POPE FRANCIS "Don't forget that the greatest inheritance you can give to your children is the faith. They must never forget that faith is the greatest heritage they can give to their children.â? In January, the pope published his first book about mercy. Pope Francis was interviewed by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli. Italian film director Roberto Benigni, officially presented the book. Benigni claimed to have read the book seven times.   ROBERTO BENIGNI Actor and director "When I was little and I wondered what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would always answered: I want to be the pope. And as I realized I made everyone laughed, I knew I should become a comedian instead.â? ANDREA TORNIELLI Author, "The name of God is Mercyâ? "The best of the book is that it shows his experience, anecdotes and memories, it shows the delicacy when facing the situation of individual people.â? It was a month of many visits. The pope meet with Jean Todt, UN Special Envoy for Road Safety. He said that 500 children die every day and 20,000 are injured by traffic accidents. "The helmet is a symbol of security for all.â? Pope Francis also meet with the former president of Google and current chairman of Alphabet, Eric Schmidt.   ERIC SCHMIDT Chairman of Alphabet, Former Google CEO "I want to work with you to make these points... We will make it happen.â? "We will... Thank you so much.â? A week later he meet with another silicon valley leader, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook.   "It's an honor to meet you.â? The most interesting visit was with the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.   "Your Holiness. Thank you for this private audience.â? "Sit down please.â? The actor, like the pope, is very involved in protecting the environment.   "And pray for me, do not forget.â? "I will. Thank you.â? In a geopolitical arena, the pope also met with Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president.   "I hope you feel at home.â? The pope gave a symbolic medallion and explained its meaning.   "It is the figure of Saint Martin, when he was a soldier. He took off his cape to cover a poor person. There is a need for free brotherhood.â? "Thank you, really.â? During this year, the pope has done a work of mercy in public every month. His reception was priceless upon entering a nursing home for the elderly.    "I'm very happy.â? "And we also welcome you.â? The pope sat with them in the reception area and then visited the rooms of those who could not come.   "How are you?â? "Not very good...â? "Cheer up!â? On his way back to the Vatican, he stopped at a house that accommodates six people in a vegetative state and their families. Perhaps the pope's most important visit during the month was his visit to the synagogue of Rome. He arrived at the entrance and was welcomed by the Chief Rabbi.   Inside, the pope greeted hundreds of people, but it was with survivors of the Holocaust that Pope Francis spent the most time. They were sitting up front. RUTH DUREGHELLO President, Jewish Community of Rome "We cannot make the same mistakes of the past, when the people remained silent and turned their backs. Men and women who did not do anything when train wagons stuffed with Jewish people were sent to the crematoriums.â? RICCARDO DI SEGNI Chief Rabbi of Rome "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.â? POPE FRANCIS "'Yes, to rediscovering Christianityâ??s Jewish roots; 'no' to every form of anti-Semitism and blame for every wrong, discrimination and persecution deriving from it. The Holocaust teaches us that utmost vigilance is always needed to be able to take prompt action in defense of human dignity and peace.â? 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.   The month closed with a curious meteorological phenomenon that is very unusual in Rome: the Eternal City awoke wrapped in a thick fog. A phenomenon that gave a hint of suggestive mystery to the streets of one of the most beautiful capitals in the world.   JMB/YA RR S - PR Up:JD