Five Australian Jewish leaders will meet Pope Benedict XVI when he visits Sydney next week.
The meeting was announced amid continuing concerns about a planned re-enactment of the stations of the cross. Some 40 interfaith leaders – including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others – will meet the pope during his first Australian visit.
Benedict is traveling to Sydney for World Youth Day, a July 15-20 celebration that is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of Catholics to the Harbor City. An estimated 500,000 people are expected to attend the closing papal mass on July 20.
Jewish leaders are concerned about how Jews will be depicted in the July 18 re-enactment of the stations of the cross depicting the stages of Jesus’ passion and death – the same day they will meet the pope at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Catholic Church has rejected requests by Jewish officials to cancel the third scene – Christ’s condemnation by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court – because they fear it could spark anti-Semitism.
A statement from the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said although it expected the re-enactment “will be nothing like the recent Mel Gibson film,” referring to “The Passion of the Christ,” they still have concerns.
“We have not seen the script, but the organizers have assured us that in the ongoing attention to the details of each station, every means is being undertaken to ensure that the production will be faithful to Nostra Aetate,” according to the statement.
The Jewish delegation is Robert Goot, the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry; Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, the chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue; Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, the chief minister of Temple Emanuel; David Knoll, the president of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies; and Josie Lacey, the interfaith chair of the Board of Deputies.
World Youth Day, which was established by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1986, has been held every two or three years in a different country.