Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, David Sciunnach, an Italian rabbi, discussed the friendship between Pope Pius XI, who reigned from 1922 to 1939, and Rabbi Alessandro Elishà da Fano (1847-1935).
The decades-long friendship began when the future pope, then a seminary professor, learned Hebrew from the rabbi.
According to Sciunnach, Fano’s grandson said that during their last
meeting in 1935, Rabbi Fano laid his hands on Pope Pius’s head to bless
him, and the Pope laid his hands on the rabbi’s head to bless him in
turn – an “historic twofold gesture” that was “unthinkable” in the days
before the Second Vatican Council.