The Pope, a former Hitler Youth member, expressed his “respect and esteem” for the Jewish community last Friday during an address to 400 community leaders inside New York’s Park East Synagogue, led by Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
Speaking inside the 120-year-old Byzantine style building, just one of his many stops during a tour of the country, he said: “Shalom, It is with joy that I come here, just a few hours before the celebration of your Pesah, to express my respect and esteem for the Jewish community in New York City.
“I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this….I know that the Jewish community make a valuable contribution to the life of the city, and I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood.
“I assure you most especially of my closeness at this time, as you prepare to celebrate the great deeds of the Almighty, and to sing the praises of Him who has worked such wonders for his people. I would ask those of you who are present to pass on my greetings and good wishes to all the members of the Jewish community.”
Rabbi Schneier, a survivor from the Budapest Ghetto, presented the Pope with a Seder plate, a haggadah and a box of matzah, he said: “Your visit today is a historic occasion to be recorded in history forever. Your presence here gives us hope and courage for the road we still have to travel together.
“At a time when religion is misused and abused by some, we must intensify together our commitment to repair our fractured world … our presence together, your Holiness, is a message that inter-religious dialogue is viable and vital to the resolution of conflict.”
It is only the third time that Pope has visited a synagogue. Pope Benedict visited the Cologne Synagogue in 2005 and Pope John Paul II visited the Rome Synagogue in 1986.
The trip came amid criticism regarding the Vatican’s reintroduction of the traditional Latin Mass which calls for Jews to accept Jesus Christ. The Pope didn’t address the issue during his talk but did release a statement ahead of the visit which said the prayer “in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church’s regard for the Jews.”
Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee told TJ: “The very fact that the Pope agreed to depart from his original schedule to ensure that between official engagements he could visit a synagogue appropriately situated on his way to the U.N was itself a special expression of esteem for the Jewish People and the unique importance of Catholic-Jewish relations for him.
“It was moreover an expression of respect for US Jewry and the Jewish-Catholic relationship in the US in particular. This was actually even more evident in the special meeting the Pope held with Jewish representatives after the ecumenical meeting in Washington and his published remarks on that occasion.”
Learn more »