ROME (JTA) – Pope Francis and Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni exchanged greetings to mark Passover and Easter.
The two holidays overlap this year: Easter is on Sunday; Passover started last week and ends Tuesday.
The holidays, Di Segni wrote to the pontiff, “represent both the link and the separation between our religions.” He noted that over history, Easter often was the occasion of anti-Semitic attacks.
Today, however, “these days are experienced by both faiths in joy and harmony,” the rabbi wrote, and he paid tribute to “all those people who have been committed to this healing.”
Di Segni offered a prayer for the pope “in the spirit of respect and brotherly friendship” with the hope that the Lord “renders us able to reciprocally understand the sense of difference and the value of brotherhood.”
In his message to Di Segni on the eve of Passover, the pope prayed that “the Almighty, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to deliver you from all evil and to accompany you with His blessing. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you, confident that we can deepen [our] ties of mutual esteem and friendship.”
Celebrating his first Easter as pontiff, Francis in his holiday message issued a plea for global peace, including in the Middle East and specifically between Israelis and Palestinians.
Listing a number of conflict areas around the world where he prayed for peace, he spoke of “peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.”
On Sunday, Christian pilgrims from around the world marked Easter in Jerusalem, where the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead on Easter.