Pope John Paul II
Città del Vaticano 13/02/2003Esteemed Head Rabbi of Rome and dear brothers in the faith of Abraham!
1. I am happy to meet you, esteemed Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, after your election as Head Rabbi of Rome, and I greet you cordially together with the representatives accompanying you. I renew my congratulations for the important position entrusted to you, and in this significant circumstance I am happy to recall with profound esteem, your renowned predecessor, Prof. Elio Toaff.
This visit today enables me to underline the great desire the Catholic church has to deepen the bonds of friendship and mutual collaboration with the Jewish community. The Synagogue, symbol of the faith of Abraham's Sons, here in Rome is very close to St. Peter's Basilica, center of the Church, and I thank God who allowed me, on April 13, 1986, to cover the brief distance separating these two temples. That historical and unforgettable visit was a gift from the Almighty, and is an important stage on the road to understanding between Jews and Catholics. I hope that the memory of that event will continue to have a good influence, and that the path of reciprocal faith followed up to now will augment relations between the Catholic Community and the Jewish Community of Rome, which is the oldest in western Europe.
2. It must be recognized that in the past our two Communities have lived side by side, at times writing "a tormented story", not without hostility and suspicion in some cases. The document Nostra Aetate from the 2nd Vatican Council, the gradual application of the conciliar teachings, the gestures of friendship made by both sides, have in any case contributed in these years to orient our relations towards an ever greater mutual understanding. I hope that this effort will continue, full of initiatives of advantageous cooperation in social, cultural and theological fields, and that awareness will increase of those spiritual ties that unite us.
3. In these days dangerous clamors for war are being heard in the world. We, Jews and Catholics, feel the urgent mission to implore God the Eternal Creator for peace, and to ourselves be operators of peace.
Shalom! This beautiful expression, very dear to you, means salvation, happiness, harmony, and underlines that peace is a gift from God; a fragile gift, placed in the hands of men and women, and to be safeguarded also thanks to the efforts of our Communities.
May God make us builders of peace, in the awareness that when men and women work for peace, they become able to make the world a better place.
Shalom! This is my cordial wish for you and the whole Jewish Community of Rome. May God, in his goodness, protect and bless each one of us. May he bless, in particular, all those who make a path for friendship and peace among men and women of every race and culture.
Original text: Italian. Bulletin from the Press Office of the Holy See, no. 74 (2003). Translated by Patricia Mc Cormick Alberico for SIDIC)
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