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American Rabbi Blesses Pope

An American Conservative rabbi pronounced the traditional Jewish blessing on Pope John Paul II at an audience in the Vatican last week and the Pontiff joined in what was probably the first encounter of its kind between a Jewish spiritual leader and the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rabbi Richard Yellin, of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, Mass., a Boston suburb, was at the general audience given by the Pope on June 27 with 13 lay members of his congregation and their wives. Mishkan Tefila is said to be the third oldest Conservative congregation in the U.S. It is celebrating its centennial.

As Vatican photographers recorded the scene, Yellin recited the Hebrew blessing from Leviticus, “May the Lord bless you and keep you…” John Paul joined in and both completed the prayer in unison in Hebrew, Yellin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The Pope later told the 13 lay leaders, all past presidents of the Massachusetts congregation, “I will pray for Jerusalem, I always pray for Jerusalem — and for peace.”

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