~`+`~CATHOLIC POPE FRANCIS REACHES OUT TO JEWS~`+`~
Pope reaches out to Jews:
Pope Francis. AP Photo: L'Osservatore Romano, HO. Pope reaches out to Jews: Pope Francis.
Within hours of his election, Pope Francis sent a letter to Rome's chief rabbi Riccardo di Segni, saying he hoped to "contribute to the progress that relations between Jews and Catholics"
have made over decades.
VATICAN CITY - Like his predecessor, Pope Francis reached out to Rome's Jewish community at the very start of his pontificate, pledging to continue to strengthen the increasingly close ties between Catholics and Jews.
Just hours after he was elected the first non-European pope in history, Francis sent a letter to Rome's chief rabbi Riccardo di Segni, saying he hoped to "contribute to the progress that relations between Jews and Catholics" have seen since the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.
Jewish leaders welcomed the election of a pontiff seen as an ally when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Israeli President Shimon Peres said Francis would be a "welcome guest in the Holy Land" while Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said the new pope "always had an open ear for our concerns."
"By choosing such an experienced man, someone who is known for his open-mindedness, the cardinals have sent an important signal to the world," Lauder said. "I am sure that Pope Francis I will continue to be a man of dialogue, a man who is able to build bridges with other faiths."
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, as he was known before he became pope, showed as Buenos Aires archbishop an inclination to expand interfaith outreach to Islam and Judaism, and made efforts to further close the nearly 1,000-year estrangement with the Orthodox churches.
He was widely praised for his aid to Buenos Aires' Jewish community following the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Center that killed 85 people. Iran has been blamed for the attack, but denied any links. A joint Argentine-Iranian "truth commission" is studying the evidence.
"We hope that his word and his example contribute to the achievement of harmony brotherhood and peace among all peoples," the Italian Rabbinical Assembly said, pledging to do its part to foster dialogue between Jews and Catholics "with mutual respect for their respective identities."
Francis' predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, worked toward reconciliation between Catholics and Jews during their papacies.
Benedict's first official act as pope was a letter to Rome's Jewish community and he became the second pope in history, after John Paul, to enter a synagogue. However, he met harsh criticism when he lifted the excommunication of a bishop who turned out to be a Holocaust-denier.
Lauder said the World Jewish Congress, which represents Jewish communities in 100 countries, is convinced that Francis will "speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism both within and without the Catholic Church, that he will take action against clerics who deny or belittle the Holocaust and that he will strengthen the Vatican's relations with Israel."
Thursday, Israeli leaders welcomed the selection of Pope Francis, calling him a friend of the Jewish people.
President Shimon Peres invited the new pope to follow the lead of his two predecessors and visit Israel. In a meeting with Roman Catholic Church leaders in Poland Thursday, Peres called Francis "a man of inspiration that can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is sure the "excellent relations" between Jews and Christians as well as between Israel and the Vatican will continue.
Israel's chief rabbinate also welcomed the appointment, saying Pope Francis' "good relations with the Jewish People are well known."
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, has been chosen as the 266th pope.
World Jewish Congress Head Praises Pope Francis
By Reuters---Published: March 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM ET
VATICAN CITY - (Reuters) - World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder congratulated Cardinal Jorge Marķa Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, on his election as Pope Francis I on Wednesday.
"Pope Francis I is no stranger to us. In recent years he attended many inter-faith events co-organized by the WJC and our regional affiliate, the Latin American Jewish Congress," he wrote, adding he had met him
in Buenos Aires in 2008.
Lauder praised the new pope as "an experienced man, someone who is known for his open-mindedness...a man of dialogue, a man who is able to build bridges with other faiths".
"We look forward to continuing the close relationship that has been fostered between the Catholic Church and the Jews over the past two decades."
After praising the work of Popes John Paul and Benedict for Catholic-Jewish relations, Lauder said:
"We are convinced that new pontiff will continue on this path, that he will speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism both within and without the Catholic Church, that he will take action against clerics who deny or belittle the Holocaust, and that he will strengthen
the Vatican's relationship with Israel."
(Reporting By Tom Heneghan; Editing by Michael Roddy)
The Special Bond Between Catholics and Jews
'Source: ... April 22, 2008...
By Ed Koch
Before he was murdered by Islamic terrorists, journalist Daniel Pearl said, "My father is Jewish; my mother is Jewish; I am Jewish." After he spoke those words, his captors decapitated him.
I believe Pearl's words should become part of the Jewish prayer book and recited every day by Jews. I am not an observant Jew. But I love God and I believe God loves me. I attend synagogue on special occasions and always on the high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I have had Pearl's last words carved into the tombstone which will adorn my grave upon my death, which I hope won't be for another eight to ten years.
My tombstone will also have etched upon it the most important prayer in the Jewish religion, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." For good measure, my tombstone will carry that brief prayer in Hebrew and in English, as well as in transliteration, so that those unable to read Hebrew will be able to chant along with those who do.
I have always believed that there is a special bond between Jews and Catholics, and have made it a personal and professional priority to strengthen that bond. In the modern era, the relationship between Jews and Catholics became solidified with Vatican II under Pope John XXIII.
More recently, the bond was further strengthened during the reign of Pope John Paul II who made clear his love and respect for the Jewish people by referring to us as the "elder brothers." Pope John Paul II extended Vatican diplomatic recognition to Israel, rejecting the threats of those who he called "Koranic" opponents. His closeness to the Jewish people was demonstrated by his recognition that the special bond that existed between God and the children of Israel is an enduring one.
I am not a religious scholar, nor observant in the rites of my religion, but I am moved by two practices that occur, one in the synagogue and the other in the Catholic Church. I attend Park East Synagogue, which is led by Rabbi Arthur Schneier. I am most emotionally affected by that moment in the High Holiday service when the Rabbi with others - me among them - walk from the altar through the synagogue with two Torahs - the five books of Moses written on scrolls -- carried on the shoulders of two congregants. The other congregants move forward to touch those scrolls with their tallises (prayer shawls), which they first kiss. On many occasions, I have carried the Torah on my shoulders and feel my eyes well up with tears as the hands move out to touch the scrolls. The delight and emotions of the faithful who touch the Torahs is palpable.
Catholics must feel similarly moved when they receive communion. Some receive the consecrated wafer from the priest into their own hands, while others receive it on their tongues. When that happens, the communicants generally make the sign of the cross, hold their hands together and walk off with an aura of purity and in a state of grace for those few moments of the Mass. Their eyes convey the same rapture that I see in the eyes of Jews kissing the Torah.
I see that state of exaltation when I attend Christmas Midnight Mass and St. Patrick's Day Mass every year at the request of the presiding Cardinal.
My special relationship with Cardinal O' Connor is well known in this city. I treasured his friendship and loved him as a brother. His funeral Mass Card bearing his picture has remained on my desk since his death, almost eight years ago. I believe that he saved my life. During the corruption crisis I was contemplating suicide and his telephone call one Sunday morning to tell me not to despair, that he knew I was in a state of depression and that he wanted me to know that, as he put it, "Everybody knows you are an honest man," and not involved with those who had engaged in corruption. When I thanked him and told him how important his call was to me, he said, "No, not at all important," and I replied, "Oh, yes, it is, Your Eminence, the Lubavitcher Rebbe did not call me, you did."
This past week, at the invitation of my Rabbi, Arthur Schneier, I attended the first event of its kind: the visit by the current Pope, Benedict XVI, a close friend and ally of John Paul II, to an American synagogue. Historically, only three papal visits to synagogues have ever occurred. John Paul II visited a synagogue in Rome. Benedict XVI visited one in Germany and made the visit on Friday to Park East Synagogue.
The Pope was warmly received by those in attendance, a small group of about 100 congregants and about 20 Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who were part of the Pope's contingent. The Pope wore his traditional white garments, including a white skull cap. The Bishops wore their black cassocks and red skull caps. The rabbi wore his traditional black robes and black skull cap.
The rabbi spoke lovingly and appreciatively of the Pope's visit. The children's choir sang. The Pope responded eloquently, saying, "Shalom! It is with joy that I come here, just a few hours before the celebration of your Pesach, to express my respect and esteem for the Jewish community in New York City....I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this." Pictures were taken with the Pope and gifts were exchanged by the rabbi and the Pope.
Earlier in the week, I was asked by a reporter how I felt about the Pope's approving a prayer asking for the conversion of the Jewish people to Catholicism. The reporter said that many Jews were upset with the prayer. I said I was not and considered the Catholic desire that we join them in conversion as a compliment. "They love us and they want us even closer" were my words. I also said, "I hope they convert to Judaism. Then, instead of there being only 13 million Jews worldwide, there would be 1 billion 13 million Jews, and that would be very comforting."
There is little chance of either happening. Nevertheless, until the Messiah arrives and leads us all into heaven, we should unite, if not in liturgy and dogma, then in our common goals of love of God, charity and good deeds, as well as standing up to Islamic terrorists who make no bones about their desire to kill the Jews, whom they refer to as the sons of apes and pigs, and the Christians, whom they derisively call Crusaders. Together we can defend ourselves and win in the war against the terrorists who threaten us daily.