VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will visit the Synagogue of Rome in January on a day set aside for dialogue between Catholics and Jews, the Vatican press office reported.
The announcement Tuesday said the visit will take place Sunday, Jan. 17, and that the Pope will “meet the local Jewish community for the occasion of the 21st Day for the Study and Development of Dialogue between Catholics and Jews, and of the feast of Mo’ed di Piombo, which falls on the same day.”
The Vatican note explained that Mo’ed di Piombo “commemorates a miraculous event of 1793 when the Jews of Rome escaped an attack by the populace of the city, thanks to a sudden storm which doused the fires that had been ignited against the gates of the ghetto.”
Benedict XVI alluded to this visit last month in a message sent to the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni. In the note he said he was anticipating “a visit to your community and to the synagogue, animated by the profound desire to manifest my personal closeness and that of the whole Catholic Church.”
Di Segni had invited the Pope to visit the synagogue in January 2006, hoping Benedict XVI’s visit could coincide with the 20th anniversary of the historic visit made by Pope John Paul II in April 1986.
That visit marked the first time a Pope had entered a Jewish place of worship since St. Peter.
For Benedict XVI, the visit to the Synagogue of Rome will be the third visit to a Jewish place of worship during his pontificate. He visited the Synagogue of Cologne, Germany, in Aug. 2005, and the Synagogue of Park East in New York, in April 2008.