Rabbis, Jewish leaders sign pope welcome letter

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Some 200 rabbis and Jewish leaders from Israel, the United States and around the world signed a letter of welcome to the pope on his visit to Israel.

The letter will be published next week in Israel’s daily Ha’aretz. Two pages of the broadsheet newspaper are required to accommodate all of the signatures.

Pope Benedict XVI will be in Israel May 11-15.

In the letter, the Jewish rabbis and 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, 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."

Rabbi Jack Bemporad, head of the Center for Interreligious Understanding, and Angelica Berrie, president of the Russell Berrie Foundation, both based in New Jersey, initiated the welcome letter as a way to build support for interreligious dialogue. 

 "This experience shows that there is recognition among Jewish leaders that dialogue is essential," said Bemporad, also teaches at the Vatican. "A strong commitment to open dialogue can forge a relationship between Catholics and Jews that can become a model for people of all faiths."

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