Fraternity Between Jews and Christians Aids Peace, Says Pope

Sends Message for Centenary of Rome’s Synagogue

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ROME, MAY 24, 2004 ( In a message for the centenary of the Synagogue of Rome, John Paul II said that fraternal relations between Jews and Christians are a decisive service to peace.

The Pope’s message was read Sunday by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar for Rome, during a ceremony held at the temple. On hand were leaders of the Jewish community in Italy and of other countries, as well as civil and political figures.

Emphasizing his regret at being unable to attend the event, the Holy Father had asked that Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, participate in his name.

John Paul II was the first Pope since St. Peter to visit a synagogue, when he visited the Jewish house of worship in Rome in April 1986.

In his message, addressed to the chief rabbi of Rome, Ricardo Di Segni, the Pope recalls the heritage left to Jews and Christians by the «great philosopher and theologian, well known by St. Thomas Aquinas,» Maimonides of Cordoba (1138-1204).

The message noted that Maimonides «expressed the wish that a better relation between Jews and Christians might lead ‘the entire world to the unanimous adoration of God.'»

«The Catholic Church, with the Second Vatican Council, convoked by Blessed John XXIII, in particular after the declaration ‘Nostra Aetate,’ has opened her arms to you, recalling that ‘Jesus is Jewish, and will always be so,'» the Holy Father stated in his message.

The Pope, who refers to Jews as «our ‘favorite brothers’ in the faith of Abraham,» said that «in the Second Vatican Council, the Church confirmed in a clear and definitive manner the rejection of anti-Semitism in all its expressions.»

«However, it is not a sufficient duty to deplore and condemn the hostilities against the Jewish people which have often characterized history; it is also necessary to foster friendship, esteem and fraternal relations,» he added.

«We still have a long way to go: The God of justice and peace, of mercy and reconciliation, calls us to collaborate without reservations in our contemporary world, torn by confrontations and enmities,» the Holy Father said.

«If we are able to join our hearts and hands to respond to the divine call, the light of the Eternal will come close to illuminate all peoples, showing us the ways of peace, ‘Shalom.’ We would like to walk on them with only one heart,» the Pope concluded.

The Synagogue of Rome, next to the Tiber River, gathers together the oldest Jewish community of Western Europe.

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