Pope underlines the importance of “Nostra Aetate” at private audience. Jewish delegation: looking forward to Jerusalem visit. Pope receives Chagall exhibit book.


Pope underlines the importance of “Nostra Aetate” at private audience. Jewish delegation: looking forward to Jerusalem visit. Pope receives Chagall exhibit book.

The “spiritual heritage” that unites Catholics and Jews is the “theological” foundation of a dialogue that has been growing stronger since the II Vatican Council. Pope Francis reflects on how mutual understanding and knowledge of the faiths has flourished over the years in seminaries, centres of formation for lay Catholics and Jewish communities. He calls to mind their “common efforts to serve the poor, the marginalised, the suffering” and mentions his visit to Jerusalem in May. Today, in the Consistory room at the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received around 55 members of the delegation from the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which has a longstanding friendship and dialogue with the Vatican, confirming the close relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism.

“Your organization, which on various occasions has met with my venerable Predecessors, maintains good relations with the Holy See and with many representatives of the Catholic world”, said Bergoglio to the organisation, led by Stanley Bergman. “I am very grateful to you for the distinguished contribution you have made to dialogue and fraternity between Jews and Catholics, and I urge you to continue on this path.”

“Next year we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of the Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate, which today constitutes for the Church the sure point of reference for relations with our ‘elder brothers’. From this document, our reflection on the spiritual patrimony, which unites us and which is the foundation of our dialogue, has developed with renewed vigour. This foundation is theological, and not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem. Therefore, it is important that our dialogue be always profoundly marked by the awareness of our relationship with God.”

The Pope went on to underline that “Jews and Christians can cooperate in constructing a more just and fraternal world. In this regard, I call to mind in a particular way our common efforts to serve the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer. Our commitment to this service is anchored in the protection of the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners as shown in Sacred Scripture,” said the Pope, quoting Exodus. “It is a God given duty, one which reflects his holy will and his justice; it is a true religious obligation.”

Pope Francis also supported the commitment to “transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship which has, thanks to the commitment of associations like yours, grown over these years,” expressing his hope that “the study of relations with Judaism may continue to flourish in seminaries and in centres of formation for lay Catholics, as I am similarly hopeful that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young Rabbis and the Jewish community.”

Before taking his leave, Bergoglio spoke of the “joy” he will take from his visit to Jerusalem during his trip to Israel, Palestine and Jordan from 24 to 26 May, “where – as the Psalm says – we are all born and where all peoples will one day meet,” he said quoting Psalm 87 and the book of Isiah. “Accompany me with your prayers, so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace. Shalom!”

In January, at the Santa Marta in the Vatican, the Pope received a group of Argentinian Rabbis lead by his friend Abraham Skorka.

Like the American Jewish Committee, in recent months Rabbi David Rosen had expressed his appreciation of the Argentinian Pontiff, stating that “there has never been a Pope with such a profound understanding of the Jews as Pope Francis.”

The president of the AJC, Stanley Bergman, who referred to the Pope as a “true friend”, expressed his “profound gratitude” for the commitment of Pope Francis in the relations between Catholics and Jews and said that they are all looking forward to his visit to Jerusalem, promising prayers for the visit to be “an inspiration for all in the region to reject the path of violence and to follow the path of peace”. “We believe that the Jewish state is perhaps the safest place for Christians in the region today,” said Bergman in a speech later propagated by the AJC. The president of the American Jewish Committee also remembered the “categorical refusal” of anti-Semitism of the Holy See and praised the lifetime commitment of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the Argentinian Jewish community.

The American Jewish delegation presented the Pope with a copy of an exhibit book of a recent exhibition at the Jewish Museum of New York entitled “Chagall: Love, War and Exile”, with a note pointing out that the exhibit “includes one of the Pope’s favourite works of art, the White Crucifixion,” by the Jewish painter.

In other news concerning Jewish-Catholic relations, on Wednesday the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), Renzo Gattegna, paid tribute to the “courageous dedication” of Igino Rogger from Trentino, who died on Wednesday at the age of 94. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, Rogger promoted the abolition of the “ignominious cult of St Simon of Trent and its association with a time of persecution based on the shameful ‘blood accusation’ that brought so much mourning to Jewish communities in Europe over the centuries.”

Vatican Insider