ROME – Speaking to rabbis from the United States, Europe, and Israel, Pope Francis praised the fruitful dialogue in recent years between the Catholic Church and Jewish communities and wished them a happy Jewish New Year.
“In our shared journey, by the graciousness of the Most High, we are presently experiencing a fruitful moment of dialogue,” the pope said in an audience at the Vatican with the representatives of the Conference of European Rabbis, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on August 31.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Chief rabbi of Moscow and a leading voice in Europe’s Jewish community, greeted Pope Francis on behalf of the group. The pope then thanked Goldschmidt and pointed to the 2016 declaration “Between Jerusalem and Rome” as an example of the joint efforts of the Catholic and Jewish faiths to commit to mutual understanding.
The declaration was written by the Conference of European Rabbis and the Rabbinical Council of America and reflects on the renewed attitude of the Catholic Church toward other religious denominations that followed the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate.
Pope Francis referred to the fourth chapter of the document as the “Magna Charta of our dialogue with the Jewish world,” adding, “the ongoing implementation of the Council’s Declaration has enabled our relations to become increasingly friendly and fraternal.”
Nostra Aetate, the pope continued, illustrates that the origins of Christianity are to be found in the Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets, which represent the mutual spiritual heritage between Catholics and Jews and pave the way for “reciprocal knowledge and respect.”
“In recent decades, we have been able to draw closer to one another and to engage in an effective and fruitful dialogue,” the pope said. “We have grown in mutual understanding and deepened our bonds of friendship.”
The statement ‘Between Jerusalem and Rome’ is not blind to the theological differences that distinguish the two faiths, however – the pope continued – “it expresses a firm resolve to collaborate more closely, now and in the future.”
Pope Francis praised the declaration’s emphasis on cooperation between Catholics and Jews toward peace, social justice and security in light of the common belief that religious and moral education – not war, coercion or social pressure – are the essential tools of religions.
“This is most important,” the pope said before praying that this cooperation continue to bear fruits. “I would like to express to you and to your communities beforehand my best wishes for the Jewish New Year which will begin in a few weeks,” Pope Francis added.
“Shanah tovah!” (Good year!)
Pope Francis has shown a deep commitment to pursuing interreligious dialogue with all religious denominations, including the Jewish community. He has paid a visit to the synagogue in Rome and walked through the concentration camp in Auschwitz. He has also praised the Torah as “a manifestation of God’s love for man” as well as launched the Vatican’s first joint exhibit with the Jewish museum.
In a March interview with Crux, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, said that despite the fact that much must still be done to repair old rifts between Catholics and the Jewish community he admires Francis and “can truly say that this is a pope who listens.”
As usual, before ending the audience the pope asked those present to pray for him and imposed his blessing “for the shared journey of friendship and trust that lies before us” and for world peace, concluding his speech with the Jewish greeting “Shalom alechem!” (Unto you peace!)