Rabbis Unite in Welcoming Pope to Israel

Two hundred Rabbis and other Jewish leaders have signed an open letter of welcome to Pope Benedict on his trip to Israel.  The initial idea, to write a letter and ask a few Rabbis to sign it, blossomed into an overwhelming response within days of inception.  The letter will be published in one of Israel’s leading newspapers upon the Pope’s arrival.  Interest in signing became so great that a second full page of the newspaper, Ha’aretz, is needed to accommodate all the signatures.  Participants span the US and include Israeli and international figures from all Jewish denominations.

Pope Benedict’s visit to Israel shows his concern for peace and for positive productive relations with the Jewish people.  This grassroots Rabbinate message of welcome proves, once again, that interreligious dialogue is not merely an ideal, but an effective path to understanding.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who heads the Center for Interreligious Understanding and Angelica Berrie, President of the Russell Berrie Foundation, [both headquartered in New Jersey], initiated the welcome letter and now hope to see this outpouring of support grow into a platform on which to build a greater community for interreligious dialogue.   “This experience shows that there is recognition among Jewish leaders that dialogue is essential,” said Rabbi Bemporad.  “A strong commitment to open dialogue can forge a relationship between Catholics and Jews that can become a model for people of all faiths.”

Text of the letter to Pope Benedict XVI:

UNITED IN OUR AGE:

“Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.”

- Nostra Aetate, Second Vatican Council, 1965

To His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI:

In this spirit, we Rabbis and Jewish leaders warmly welcome you and your mission of peace to Israel.  With one voice, we are united in our commitment to interreligious dialogue, to opening more paths to increased understanding, and to continually recognize and strengthen the important relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide.

And where better to reaffirm that relationship, than in the Holy Land of Israel, a place both religions treasure as part of a shared heritage.

Peace be with you,

B’shalom,

[Signatures]

To learn more about the transformation of Catholic-Jewish relations, from the historic 20th century Nostra Aetate to 21st century ways forward, visit the Center for Interreligious Understanding at www.faithindialogue.org

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