Chief Rabbi of Rome Praises Pope John Xxiii; Analyzes Encyclical
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Chief Rabbi of Rome Praises Pope John Xxiii; Analyzes Encyclical

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Enthusiastic praise for the recent “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth) encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII was voiced here today by Prof. Elio Toaff, Chief Rabbi of Rome, in a statement to the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Julio Dresner. He especially lauded the Pontiff’s stand on three issues which, he said, “are of particular interest to Jews.” The issues are: The Pope’s stand on freedom of migration; his declaration that all forms of racial discrimination are inadmissible to true Christians, and his assertion that all men are free to worship God according to their own conscience.

In regard to freedom of migration, as viewed by the Pope, Prof. Toaff said: “The Pope’s statement has found wide echoes with Jews at this moment when many governments impede the free movement of Jews to countries and surroundings more suitable for their development and their life as Jews.”

Referring to the encyclical’s firm stand against racial discrimination, Dr. Toaff said; “Treating so many problems of fundamental importance, the Pope could not omit expressing his thought on a phenomenon which, unfortunately, has always been with us, but never as much as in the recent past, a phenomenon which was the cause of the most monstrous persecutions, of hatred as violent as it was irrational. Think of what happened to the Jewish people in Europe during the period 1933-1945!”

“The late Pope Pius XII,” Rabbi Toaff pointed out, “had already severely condemned racist, nationalistic and imperialistic nations on March 18, 1944. But this statement, coming as it did toward the end of World War II, may have appeared as a direct reaction to the most painful impressions of that terrible hour.”


“John XXIII,” continued Dr. Toaff, “states today, 20 years after the conflagration, in an encyclical letter of exceptional importance, in which the officialt thoughts of the Church on the great problems of this century are announced, that ‘racial discriminations have no Justification whatsoever’ in the domain of reason and doctrine.

“This is, in fact, a restatement of the dignity of human beings, who are to be judged and appreciated because of the Divine spark in them, by which we consider man as created in the image of God–to whichever nation he belongs, whichever faith he professes, whatever be the color of his skin.

“These words of a serene sense of Justice,” Dr. Toaff went on, “stated in so simple and noble a form, rise above any polemics or faction. But, implicitly, they give the most eloquent and most competent answer to that ignoble libel which an anonymous racist organization one day succeeded in placing before the Council Fathers with the purpose of spreading prejudice and hatred there, where prayers and works for peace among men are being performed.”


In the Pope’s statement about every man’s right to worship God in accordance with his own conscience, the Chief Rabbi said, he saw “a right and modern conception of the essential conditions for peaceful and harmonious life among all mankind.”

The encyclical, in Rabbi Toaff’s opinion, “actually condemns any form of religious intolerance and any persecutions against freedom of worship.” The Pope, indeed stated, he pointed out, “that human life is fecund and orderly, and corresponds to the dignity of human beings when it is founded on truth.”

“All this,” the Chief Rabbi concluded, “is in logical harmony with the subject of the encyclical letter–the consolidation of peace in the world. We Jews, who greet each other by wishing peace, who in all our prayers invoke peace, who on our Day of Atonement implore God to reign over the world in peace–we know that this world includes the happiness longed for by mankind, and that Israel was first to preach peace during every moment of its existence.”

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