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THE POPE IN THE SYNAGOGUE...
from issue no. 01 - 2010

The meeting in the Great Synagogue of the Jews of Rome, 17 January 2010

“The primary goods to be safeguarded along with that of mercy”


Some passages from the speech of the Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni


by Riccardo Di Segni


Benedict XVI visits the exhibition “Et ecce Gaudium. Roman Jews and the inauguration ceremony of the popes”, Jewish Museum Rome [© Osservatore Romano]

Benedict XVI visits the exhibition “Et ecce Gaudium. Roman Jews and the inauguration ceremony of the popes”, Jewish Museum Rome [© Osservatore Romano]

“When a new Pope was elected, his pontificate began with a solemn procession through the streets of Rome. The Jews of the city were also required to take part in this procession, decorating part of the route. The decorations included large laudatory panels…
Times have obviously changed and we thank the Lord, Blessed is He, who has brought us an era of freedom. After the liberty conquered in 1870, ever since the time of Vatican II, our relations with the Catholic Church and its Pope are based on terms of equal dignity and mutual respect. It was the advances of the Council that made this relationship possible. Should they be called into question the possibility of dialogue would no longer exist”





“The State of Israel is a political entity, guaranteed by the right of nations. But in our religious vision, we cannot avoid seeing in this also a design of Providence. The terms “holy land” or “promised land” are commonly used, but there is a risk of forgetting the original, real meaning. The land is the land of Israel, and in Hebrew it is literally not the land which is holy. Instead, it is eretz Hakodesh, the land of He who is Holy. And the promise is the one that God made repeatedly to our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give it to their descendents, the children of Jacob-Israel, who actually held it for long periods of time”





“The obligation to protect the environment was born with the first man. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden with the duty “to work it and to guard it” (Gen 2, 15). We must remember that the word nature never appears in the Jewish Bible as an independent entity, but only the concept of the created and creatures. We are all creatures, from rocks to human beings. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures is rooted in Biblical spirituality, particularly the Psalms. For that reason, we can all agree on a non-idolatrous project of ecology, without forgetting that at the summit of the creation is man, made in the Divine image. Our responsibility is to protect all of creation, but the sanctity of life, the dignity of man, his freedom, his need for justice and ethics are primary goods to be safeguarded. These are the Biblical imperatives that we share, together with that of mercy: living one’s religion with honesty and humility, as a powerful instrument of growth and human support, without aggressiveness, without political exploitation, without turning it into an instrument of hate, exclusion and death”





A view of the Synagogue of Rome during the visit of Benedict XVI [© Osservatore Romano]

A view of the Synagogue of Rome during the visit of Benedict XVI [© Osservatore Romano]

“There is a phrase from Exodus (15, 11) that says “Who is like you among the powers, baelim, O Lord”. Rabbi Ishmael, a witness of historic atrocities, and himself a martyr of the repression of Hadrian, read this phrase with a small variation: bailemim, “who is like you, O Lord, among the mute”, who witnesses the disasters of the world and does not speak. The silence of God, or our own incapacity to hear His voice in the face of the world’s evils are an inscrutable mystery. But the silence of man is on a different level; it makes us wonder, it challenges us, and does not escape judgment. Jews, Christians and those of other faiths have been and still are persecuted around the world for their beliefs. Only He who is the Lord of forgiveness can forgive all those who persecute us”





“The image of respect and friendship that emanates from this encounter must be an example for all those who are watching. But friendship and brotherhood must not be exclusive or opposed to others. This is particularly true for all those who acknowledge the spiritual legacy of Abraham. Without exclusion, Jews, Christians, and Moslems are called to this responsibility of peace. The prayer that is raised in this Synagogue is the one for universal peace announced by Isaiah (66, 12) for Jerusalem, kenahar shalom ukhnachal shotef kevod goim. ‘Peace to her like a river and the glory of the nations like a flowing stream’. Thank you. Shalom”


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