Pope to Visit Synagogue in Sign of Friendship Amid Questions

Pope to Visit Synagogue in Sign of Friendship Amid Questions (Source ABC) Pope Francis becomes the third pope to visit Rome’s main synagogue in a sign of continued Catholic-Jewish friendship that was highlighted by a recent Vatican declaration that it doesn’t support official efforts to convert the Jews. But the visit also follows a series of developments that have upset some in the Jewish community, including a new Vatican treaty signed with the “state of Palestine” and Francis’ own words and deeds that have been interpreted by some as favoring the Palestinian political cause. The chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, said in an interview that the papal visit is aimed at showing five decades of improving Christian-Jewish relations and interfaith harmony, at a time of Islamic extremist violence around the globe. But he said some recent Vatican developments “cannot be so appreciated by the Jewish community.” Earlier this month, a treaty went into effect regulating the life of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories. It was the first treaty the Holy See had signed with the “state of Palestine” after the U.N. General Assembly recognized Palestine in 2012. Before that, in May last year, Francis privately told the visiting Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, that he was “a bit an angel of peace.” And a year before that Francis began his visit to the region in Bethlehem, not Israel, and stopped his popemobile to pray at the separation barrier Israel had built around the West Bank city. Given all that, Jews welcomed a document issued by the Vatican last month tracing 50 years of improved relations following the Second Vatican Council’s “Nostra Aetate” declaration which , among other things, repudiated the centuries-old charge that Jews as a whole were responsible for the death of Christ. In the new document, the Vatican went farther than “Nostra Aetate” or any subsequent Vatican statement making clear that Jews are in a salvific relationship with God and that the Catholic Church “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.” “This document is very significant,” said Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, the Vatican’s longtime dialogue partner with the Jewish community who will attend Sunday’s visit as a representative of the chief rabbinate of Israel. But Rosen, during the official Vatican launch of the document, pointed out the absence of any reference to Jews’ relationship with the land of Israel, or to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See in 1993. That development alone has paved the way for successive papal trips to Israel.



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