Rabbis Reach Concensus

Rabbis Reach Rare Consensus

Although they may differ on many issues, the one thing 430 rabbis and Jewish leaders of every denomination do agree on is that they welcome Pope Francis to Israel and they want him to continue the work of Nostra Aetate, the unprecedented document that advanced the state of Catholic Jewish relations.

Photo by Presidencia.gov.ar

Photo by Presidencia.gov.ar

It took four entire pages to print all the signatures of the Jewish leaders greeting Pope Francis in a letter sponsored by the New Jersey based Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU). The welcoming message appeared in a special section in Ha’aretz that was presented to the pope while he was in Israel.  To add your welcome to Pope Francis, click here.

“Pope Francis’ visit to Israel showed his concern for peace,” said Rabbi Jack Bemporad, CIU Director. “The message of welcome, signed by so many of all Jewish denominations, underscores interreligious dialogue not merely as an ideal, but as an effective path to understanding.”

There is recognition among Jewish leaders that dialogue is essential to bringing about genuine understanding and mutual appreciation. “Pope Francis has been clear that he wants to build bridges among all religions to bring about peace in the world,” added Rabbi Bemporad. “The on-going and vibrant commitment to open dialogue continues, not only to strengthen the relationship between Catholics and Jews, but my hope is that it can be a model for all interreligious work.”

Nostra Aetate was the revolutionary document signed by Pope Paul VI in 1965, in which the Catholic Church changed its appreciation of other religions and in particular, Judaism. It condemned anti-Semitism and said that the Jews were not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. In addition, it affirmed that Jesus was a Jew and that the Jews are still the people of God, quoting the Apostle Paul, “the calls and promises of God are irrevocable.” These Jewish leaders want Pope Francis to continue in the work of Nostra Aetate, as have other Popes through various subsequent documents and outreach to the Jewish community.

Promoting outreach to many religions has been Rabbi Bemporad’s calling nearly his entire life. Having fled Mussolini’s fascist Italy as a small child, he has dedicated his life to interreligious work among Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and Christians worldwide. In addition to heading the CIU, Rabbi Bempoard is the Director of the John Paul II Center and Professor of Interreligious Studies, both at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), in Rome. The welcome message was made possible by the generous support of the New Jersey-based Russell Berrie Foundation and its President, Angelica Berrie.

Text of the letter to Pope Francis:

“Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.”
Nostra Aetate
Second Vatican Council, 1965

To His Holiness Pope Francis:

In this spirit, we – Rabbis and Jewish leaders — warmly welcome you and your mission of peace to Israel. With one voice, we are united in our commitment to interreligious dialogue, to opening more paths to increased understanding.

With you we are here to build bridges so that we can traverse these bridges of faith together in a journey of hope for justice, equality and peace, and to continually recognize and strengthen the important relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide.

And where better to reaffirm that relationship, than in the Holy Land of Israel, a place both religions treasure as part of a shared heritage.

Peace be with you,

To view the print version of the welcome message with signatures, click here.