Address to Dr. Riccardo DiSegni, Chief Rabbi of Rome (01.16.2006)

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Benedict XVI, Pope (Ratzinger, Joseph) 1927-

Città del Vaticano       16/01/2006

Distinguished Chief Rabbi, Beloved friends, Shalom!

“The Eternal One is my strength and my song, and He has been my salvation” ( Exodus 15,2): so Moses and the Israelites sang, when the Lord saved the people passing through the sea. In the same way Isaiah sang: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my song; he has been my salvation” (12,2). Your visit brings me great joy, and motivates me to renew with you this song of gratitude for salvation received. The people of Israel have been liberated many times from the hands of their enemies and, in times of antisemitism, in the dramatic moments of the Shoah, the hand of the Almighty has supported and guided them. The favor of the God of the Covenant has always accompanied them, giving them the strength to overcome trials. To this divine loving attention your Jewish community, present in the city of Rome for more than two thousand years, can also render testimony.
The Catholic Church is close to you and is your friend. Yes, we love to you and we cannot fail to love you, “because of the Fathers:” because of them you are very dear to us and are favored brothers (cf. Rom. 11:28b). After the Second Vatican Council mutual esteem and trust between us has increased. Ever more fraternal and cordial contacts have developed, becoming even more intense during the pontificate of my venerated predecessor, John Paul II.

In Christ we partake in your heritage of the Fathers, in order to serve the Almighty, “shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph. 3:9), grafted onto the one “holy tree” (cf. Is. 6:13; Rom. 11:16) of the people of God. As Christians, this fact makes us aware that, with you, we share in the responsibility of cooperating for the good of all people, in justice and peace, in truth and freedom, in holiness and love. In the light of this common mission we cannot fail to denounce and fight decisively against the hatred and misunderstanding, the injustice and violence that continue to plant worries in the minds of men and women of good will. In this context, how can we not be pained and concerned over the renewal of manifestations of antisemitism?

Distinguished Chief Rabbi, not long ago you were entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the Roman Jewish community; you have assumed this responsibility with the wealth of your experience as a scholar and doctor, who have shared the joys and sorrows of so many people. The many challenges and needs of Rome and the world demand that we unite our hands and hearts in concrete initiatives of solidarity, tzedek (justice) and tzedekah (charity). Together, we can work to transmit the torch of the Ten Commandments and of hope to young generations.

May the Eternal watch over you and over the entire Jewish community of Rome! In this particular circumstance, I make my own the prayer of Pope Clement I, invoking the blessings of Heaven upon you all: “Give us and all who inhabit the earth concord and peace, as you gave our fathers when they invoked your name in faith and truth” (“To the Corinthians” 60, 4). Shalom!

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