ROME (Apr. 16)
Pope John Paul II met this week with Rome Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff at the Vatican to mark the 10th anniversary of the pope’s historic visit to Rome’s main synagogue.
“Our meetings are a sign of hope to a world anxiously searching for authentic values of human brotherhood,” the pope told Toaff, who was joined at Monday’s meeting by other leading members of the Rome Jewish community.
“The new spirit of friendship and reciprocal solicitude which characterizes Catholic-Jewish relations can constitute the most important symbol that Jews and Catholics have to offer to a troubled world which doesn’t know how to recognize the supremacy of love over hate,” the pope added.
He invited Toaff to the Vatican to commemorate his April 13, 1986, visit to the main Rome synagogue, situated a half-mile from the Vatican, on the other side of the Tiber River.
That day marks the first time that a pope had visited a Jewish house of worship, a major step forward in Jewish-Catholic dialogue.
During that visit, the pope referred to Jews as the “elder brothers” of Christians.
During their meeting Monday, the pope thanked Toaff for playing host ten years ago.
“Your visit today allows me to relive the experience and welcome you in my home like you welcomed me in yours,” the pope said.
The pope and Toaff have met on several occasions, but a Jewish source said it was believed that Monday’s visit was the first time that Toaff had led a delegation to the Vatican.
The pope has placed great emphasis during his papacy on improving Jewish- Catholic relations.
In a landmark agreement two years ago, the Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations.