"Sergio, Did You Sneak In?"

Argentine Rabbi Recounts Meeting With Francis

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He received me with an affectionate: “Sergio, how good it is that you are here! Did you sneak in?” And, in reality, once again he was right.

This is the title of an article published in the Argentine newspaper “La Nacion,” which was sent to us by one of our readers of La Plata. In the article, the rabbi of Buenos Aires, Sergio Bergman, talks about his meeting with Pope Francis in Rome. We thank his secretary Valeria, who got permission from the newspaper “La Nacion” for us to translate and publish it.

 * * *

It was in Pope Francis’ first audience with leaders of the different religions. There I met with our beloved Bergoglio. In the imposing framework of the Clementine Hall, his embrace transcended the formality of the greeting established by protocol to see in his smile and close gesture that he, who is invested as Pope, is our Bergoglio of always. So, with the gestures that are so much his, he is warm, direct and intimate. With the humor of one who doesn’t lose his smile or his freshness even from those heights, recovering in each one the same openness, to end by asking us to continue praying for him. I presented myself only to bless and to be grateful for this moment. The gesture of the embrace crowns the path of one who is my reference, but also our renewed commitment to the challenge that convokes us. 

“Now that I am before Francis, I embrace again my Rabbi Bergoglio,” I said to him. He gave me a smile and, with his very particular humor, he received me with an affectionate: “Sergio, how good it is that you are here! Did you sneak in?” And, in reality, once again he was right. 

Without entering into details, I was not included in the formal delegation of representatives of Jewish institutions to the Vatican and, given the impassable rigorousness of the Vatican’s protocol, even with the collaboration of the leaders of the Jewish community itself, both the Argentine as well as the international which were present, it wasn’t possible to include me for the audience … until, as foreseeable, it was my priest and bishop friends – as is the case of monsignor Sanchez Sorondo – who let it be known so that it would be Pope Francis himself who instructed the Secretariat of State to give me access and to celebrate in that fleeting instant, which was eternal, our meeting again and our being able to see one another.

After Our Reunion Embrace, We Prayed

Our age-old Jewish tradition prescribes the reciting of a blessing when one is before a wise man and great teacher of humanity. So, with joy in my heart and my soul exalted in gratitude, I recited in Hebrew the blessing to conclude together, the two of us saying as one: Amen. 

What a thrill! What energy! A unique moment that will remain forever in my heart and soul, a fertile furrow of space-time that will bear fruit in the good harvest of the future. 

Pope Francis left us a message full of kindness and love, uniting the Christian Churches, even the Eastern Orthodox, which for a millennium weren’t present in these instances. Giving unequivocal signs of unity for the ecumenical task in Christianity, he referred to the inter-religious dimension, giving a special place to the Judeo-Christian bond. 

I am still overwhelmed, while writing these liens. Francis’ embrace renews a Pact for this New Era, a blessing elevated in Prayer of a New Time where we continue guided by the generous heart of our Pastor and Teacher, POPE Francis, who is none other than the same Father Jorge, the much loved and appreciated Bergoglio. 

Sergio Bergman

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