ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI said he would visit the main synagogue in Rome after the High Holidays.
In Rosh Hashanah greetings to Rome’s Jewish community released Thursday by the office of Rome’s chief rabbi, the pope said he looked forward "with joy" to the visit, which he said was motivated by "my personal nearness and that of the whole Catholic Church" to the Jewish community.
In his message the pope invoked "abundant blessings" and "constant encouragement in the deep commitment to promote justice, harmony and peace."
Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni called the message "significant and important."
The announcement that the pope was planning to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome was not a surprise. In March, the president of the Rome Jewish community had said the pope would visit the synagogue this fall.
Benedict has visited synagogues in Germany and the United States as pope, but his visit to the Rome synagogue would be the first papal visit there since the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in 1986. That visit marked the first time a reigning pontiff had entered a synagogue.