VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI commits himself to “continue the dialogue” with the Jewish community in a birthday greeting sent to the former chief rabbi of Rome.
The birthday message to Rabbi Elio Toaff, 90, was read on Sunday by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, at a celebration for the rabbi in Rome.
“With a grateful spirit to God, I thank you for the good relations that have been interwoven with the Holy See, particularly during the pontificate of my deceased predecessor,” said the Holy Father in his letter.
“Your birthday becomes an occasion to renew the commitment to continue the dialogue between us, looking with confidence to the future,” he added.
“I bless the eternal Father for the gift of the long and fruitful life he has granted you, during which the goodness of God has been manifested many times,” wrote Benedict XVI.
“I really didn’t expect it,” said Rabbi Toaff, the first rabbi to welcome a Pope (after St. Peter) to a synagogue, in 1986.
Among those attending the rabbi’s party were Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for the Diocese of Rome; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II’s personal secretary.
Rabbi Toaff is one of the few people John Paul II expressly mentioned in his will.