Israeli Envoy to Vatican Recalls Papal Visit

John Paul II Opened Our Eyes to a New World, He Says

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ROME, MAR. 21, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAVVENIRE).- Yosef Neville Lamdan, Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, recalled the Pope´s historic trip last year to the Holy Land, and referred to some interesting consequences.

«His Holiness invited us to develop the dialogue, to build — in the spirit of reconciliation — a new era in the relations between Christians and Jews,» the diplomat said. «We will do everything possible to put his invitation into practice. Beginning, for example, with the education of youth and exchanges among them. However, without neglecting other forms of collaboration, such as international cooperation.»

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, 62 years ago, Lamdan became Israel´s representative at the Vatican last Sept. 18, after a diplomatic career which began in the British Foreign Office service and later was placed at the disposal of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

–Q: The Pope made his Jubilee pilgrimage to Israel a year ago. What do you recall about that trip?

–Lamdan: I remember the emotion, I remember I was profoundly impressed by the Pope´s charisma, his high stature as spiritual leader, which is revealed little by little not only in words but perhaps especially in actions, in the things left unsaid. I was impressed, to use the words that John Paul II addressed to me last Sept. 18, by the pre-eminently religious nature of that trip which, as he wished, we have not forgotten.

–Q: That trip was characterized by several intense moments. What effect did these have on Israeli public opinion?

–Lamdan: In our society, especially among the youth, he caused a profound impression. Many discovered the face and places of Christianity in their own country.

More generally, it seemed as if the Pope had opened the eyes of all to a new and friendly world, an unknown attitude in its aspect of openness, understanding, benevolence toward all, and our history. In summary, it has been the discovery of an unsuspected spiritual dimension that has been engraved on the memory. It is important to remember, but it is not enough; we must follow the way.

–Q: In what direction?

–Lamdan: In the direction of dialogue between Christians and Jews, which at present is going through successive phases and stages. Simplifying, one can say that the first stage was the Pope´s visit to the synagogue of Rome in 1986. The second was the trip to Israel.

The third and those thereafter must mark the phases of a growing collaboration, by way of reciprocal knowledge and understanding that certainly encourage us, but that are still insufficient.

–Q: Specifically, what can be done?

–Lamdan: To aim, for example, for the establishment of common study centers, specialized in interdisciplinary research of the roots and development of the Jewish and Christian cultures. There are very many, challenging topics. They extend from the general history of the language, to philosophy and theology, from patristics to modern forms of Judaism. …

Something is already being done in Jerusalem as regards the study of Christianity. I hope that soon something similar can be done in Rome, with the creation of an institute of studies on Judaism, which I hope will enjoy wide Catholic support. I have already received positive signs, in this respect.

–Q: And as regards international cooperation?

–Lamdan: We have started the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel [entrusted to the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum»], a project for the struggle against blighting, putting our highest experts at its disposal.

I think that to work together for humanitarian ends might have beneficial repercussions in all fields. We know that the dialogue between us is not easy; however, be careful, we cannot fail to meet this great and wonderful challenge.

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