Pope Benedict XVI will make a historic visit to a New York synagogue later this month.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Thursday that the pope will visit the Park East Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – the first time a pope has visited an American synagogue. The Milan daily Il Giornale also reported the April 18 visit, saying the pope will meet at the synagogue with its rabbi, Arthur Schneier, and a group of Jewish children.
“For the last 46 years I have preached from this pulpit advocating Torah values of freedom, human rights and mutual respect,” said Schneier in a statement. “It is my unique privilege to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Park East Synagogue on his first visit to a Jewish house of worship in the United States. This historic first is a reaffirmation of Pope Benedict XVI’s commitment to interreligious dialogue and outreach to the Jewish community.”
The visit, part of the pope’s six-day visit to New York and Washington, comes at a fraught moment in Jewish-Christian relations. The pope’s decision last year to allow the recitation of a prayer for the conversion of the Jews sparked fears of a major setback in Catholic-Jewish relations, while a recent declaration by evangelical leaders of their intention to continue missionizing to Jews is seen as further cause for worry.
Il Giornale also said that after an interfaith meeting April 17 in Washington, the pope would meet privately with Jewish representatives to offer a personal greeting for Passover.
Neither of these stops is on the Vatican’s official schedule for the pontiff’s trip.