Italy’s Jewish Community Offering Prayers for Pope’s Early Recovery

Italy’s Jewish community, stunned and horrified at the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican last Wednesday, has joined with Catholics and members of other faiths all over the world in offering prayers for the Pontiff’s speedy recovery from the wounds inflicted. The community’s reaction was summed by by Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff of Rome in a telegram to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican Secretary of State.

“Deeply grieved at this abominable attempt,” the message said, “united with the Jews of Rome, I pray to the Lord for the health of the Pontiff to whom I wish a quick and complete recovery.” Similar telegrams were sent to Casaroli by the heads of the Rome Jewish Community, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities and the heads of Jewish organizations.

Following a meeting between Toaff and the Pope in the old Roman ghetto several months ago, Italian Jews sensed the possibility of closer dialogue with the Vatican than had been the case in recent years. Jewish circles noted that the Pope was to have visited Switzerland on May 31 where he planned to meet in common prayer with the Swiss Jewish communities, an event that would have been an historic “first.”

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