Thursday, January 16, 2014

Argentinian Rabbis meet Pope to mark Day of Jewish-Catholic dialogue

A delegation of Argentina’s top Jewish leaders are in the Vatican this week to celebrate the annual day of Jewish-Catholic relations, traditionally marked in a number of European countries on January 17th.

The annual celebration was first introduced in Italy in 1990 to remember the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, to celebrate the dialogue with Judaism that has been going on since the Second Vatican Council and to further encourage such dialogue and contact through practical activities.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who worked very closely together with Cardinal Bergoglio when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is heading the delegation of Jewish leaders who met privately with Pope Francis on Thursday. Rabbi Skorka is also giving a talk at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the progress made in Catholic-Jewish dialogue over the past 50 years, focusing especially on his Latin American perspective.

But how much can this close friendship between the Pope and the Rabbi help to further the wider relationship between Catholics and Jews in different parts of the world? Philippa Hitchen put that question to Fr Norbert Hofmann from the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism:

Fr Hofmann says the Day of Judaism is celebrated in Italy, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands and today we have another occasion to celebrate the relationship through the Pope’s meeting with the delegation from Argentina…..he says they’ll have lunch together at the Santa Marta guesthouse where the Pope lives before Rabbi Skorka gives his talk at the Gregorian University…..

Fr Hofmann notes that it’s a deep friendship between Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka, who edited a book together with the former Cardinal Bergoglio…….he says this friendship is a stimulus for the dialogue in Argentina and Latin America but also on a worldwide level too….

Speaking of Pope Francis’ planned visit to Israel, Jordan and Palestine in May of this year, Fr Hofmann says in Jewish tradition, when one does something three times, it becomes part of a solid and significant tradition. Though Pope Paul VI made a first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, this forthcoming visit will be the third state visit to Israel by a pontiff, so it is very significant and the Jewish people are very happy to welcome Pope Francis. Given the character of the Holy Father, he adds, there are bound to be some significant gestures on this journey….

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