VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his desire to bring Catholics and Jews ever closer, and called on believers of both communities to help build peace in the face of a threat of war.
The Pope was addressing Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, whom he received in audience together with other rabbis and Jewish leaders of the city.
It was the first time that Di Segni, who became chief rabbi a year ago, met with the Pope in the Vatican. The rabbi’s predecessor, Elio Toaff, whom the Pope remembered “with profound esteem” during the audience, was a friend of the Holy Father’s.
During the meeting, John Paul II emphasized “the intense desire that the Catholic Church nourishes to make its ties of friendship and reciprocal collaboration with the Jewish community more profound.”
The Holy Father also referred to the “historic and unforgettable” visit he made in 1986 to the synagogue of Rome.
That event, “gift of the Almighty,” represents “an important stage in the path toward understanding between Jews and Catholics,” the Pope said.
John Paul II also expressed the hope that the path of reciprocal trust completed to date “will increment relations between the Catholic community and the Jewish community in Rome,” the oldest in Western Europe.
The Holy Father acknowledged that in the past the two communities were hostile toward one another.
But he said that the gradual application of the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church’s relations with non-Christians, “Nostra Aetate,” as well as the gestures of friendship between the two communities, “have contributed to direct our relations toward every greater reciprocal understanding.”
Lastly, John Paul II said that Jews and Catholics “are aware of the urgent mission to implore the Creator and eternal God for peace, and for we ourselves to be agents of peace.”
In his greeting to the Pope, the chief rabbi also highlighted the collaboration between Jews and Christians, describing it as necessary for the world and a fruitful sign of peace and blessing.
Di Segni officially invited the Holy Father to visit the synagogue of Rome again on the centenary of its construction, which will take place next year.
The rabbi also stressed the importance of establishing a permanent form of consultation to avoid misunderstandings and to define concrete forms of intervention.