ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI will visit Rome’s main synagogue on the Catholic Church’s annual day of study and dialogue between Catholics and Jews.
The Vatican announced Tuesday that the pope will visit the Great Synagogue of Rome on Jan. 17.
The day also marks a local Jewish commemoration, called the "Mo’ed di Piombo." According to the Vatican announcement, the Mo’ed di Piombo commemorates "a miraculous event of 1793 when the Jews of Rome escaped an attack by the populace of the city thanks to a sudden storm which doused the fires that had been ignited against the gates of the ghetto."
This will be the Church’s 21st "Day of Judaism," which usually features lectures and other programs held in cooperation with rabbis and other Jewish leaders. Last January, Italian Jewish leaders boycotted the event because of the Vatican’s reintroduction of a Latin prayer that appeared to call for the conversion of the Jews.
The pope’s visit will be the second to the synagogue by a sitting pope. In 1986, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit the synagogue. He and the then-chief rabbi embraced in a gesture that symbolized a new phase in Catholic-Jewish relations.