Pope visits Synagogue of Rome

Synagogue of Rome

Synagogue of Rome

Pope Benedict XVI visited the Synagogue of Rome  yesterday. On his arrival, he was welcomed by Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Jewish community of Rome; Renzo Gattegna, president of the Jewish communities of Italy, and Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome.

Before entering the building, the Pope placed a floral wreath before plaques commemorating the deportation of 1,022 Jews on 16 October 1943 and a terrorist attack of 9 October 1982 which killed a two-year-old Jewish boy and injured thirty-seven other people as they left the synagogue after prayers.

Having been greeted in discourses by Riccardo Pacifici, Renzo Gattegna and Riccardo Di Segni, the Pope delivered his own address, interrupted on seven occasions by applause from those present in the synagogue.

Benedict XVI indicated how Vatican Council II "gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship, a journey which has intensified and developed over the last forty years, through important steps and significant gestures. Among them, I should mention once again the historic visit by my venerable predecessor to this synagogue on 13 April 1986". In this context, the Pope also mentioned his own 2009 pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his visits to synagogues in Cologne and New York.

"The Church", he said, "has not failed to deplore the failings of her sons and daughters, begging forgiveness for all that could in any way have contributed to the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. May these wounds be healed forever!"

The Holocaust, said the Holy Father, "the singular and deeply disturbing drama, ... represents, as it were, the apex of the path of hatred that begins when man forgets his Creator and places himself at the centre of the universe".

"The extermination of the people of the Covenant of Moses, first announced then systematically planned and put into effect in Europe under the Nazi regime, on that day tragically reached as far as Rome. Unfortunately, many remained indifferent, but many, including Italian Catholics, sustained by their faith and by Christian teaching, reacted with courage, often at the risk of their lives, opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives who were being hunted down, and deserving perennial gratitude. The Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.

"The memory of these events compels us to strengthen the bonds that unite us so that our mutual understanding, respect and acceptance may always increase", he added.

Benedict XVI explained how both Jews and Christians are illuminated by the Decalogue, "the 'Ten Words' or Ten Commandments" which constitute "a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a 'great ethical code' for all humanity".

"From this perspective, there are several possible areas of co-operation and witness", said the Pope, going on to mention "three that are especially important for our time".

"The 'Ten Words' require that we recognise the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden calves. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider Him superfluous, irrelevant for their lives. And so, other new gods have been fabricated to whom man bows down".

Secondly, the Decalogue calls us "to respect life and to protect it against all injustice and abuse, recognising the worth of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. How often, in every part of the world, near and far, the dignity, the freedom and the rights of human beings are trampled upon!", he said.

Thirdly, the Ten Commandments "call us to preserve and to promote the sanctity of the family, in which the personal and reciprocal, faithful and definitive 'yes' of man and woman opens the way to the future, to the authentic humanity of each, and at the same time opens them to the gift of a new life. To witness that the family continues to be the essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are learned and practised is a vital service for the building of a world with a more human face".

"All of the Commandments are summed up in the love of God and in mercy towards one's neighbour", said the Holy Father. "This Rule urges Jews and Christians to exercise, in our time, a special generosity towards the poor, towards women and children, strangers, the sick, the weak and the needy".

"On this path we can walk together, aware of the differences that exist between us, but also aware of the fact that when we succeed in uniting our hearts and our hands in response to the Lord's call, His light will come closer and shine on all the peoples of the world".

Benedict XVI continued: "Christians and Jews share to a great extent a common spiritual heritage, they pray to the same Lord, they have the same roots, and yet they often remain unknown to one another. It is our duty, in response to God's call, to strive to keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of the challenges of our time, challenges which invite us to co-operate for the good of humanity in this world created by God, the Omnipotent and Merciful".

After then recalling how the Catholic and Jewish communities have coexisted in Rome for two thousand years, the Pope expressed the hope that this proximity may "be animated by a growing fraternal love, expressed also in closer co-operation, so that we may offer a valid contribution to solving the problems and difficulties that we still face.

He concluded:"I beg from the Lord the precious gift of peace in the world, above all in the Holy Land. During my pilgrimage there last May, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I prayed to Him Who can do all things, asking: 'Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of those who call upon Your name, to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion'".

Rabbi Di Segni had invited the Pope to visit the Synagogue in January 2006, hoping the visit would 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.

Pope Benedict has visited the Synagogue of Cologne, Germany, in August 2005, and the Synagogue of Park East in New York, in April 2008.

Source: VIS

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