“I very much hope to be able to contribute to the progress that relations between Jews and Catholics have experienced since the Second Vatican Council, in a spirit of renewed collaboration and at the service of a world that can be ever more harmonious with the will of the Creator.”
That was the message Pope Francis I sent to Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, just hours after being elected to succeed Benedict XVI on March 13. Vatican II was the foundation of a new relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jews, as the Church repudiated its 2,000-year-old teaching that the Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus.
With its reference to Vatican II, Francis’ letter to the chief rabbi was both the calling card of a friend and a declaration of a desire for Jews and Catholics to continue to move forward in friendship rather than enmity. The pope’s own warm history with the Jewish community as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires serves as an indication of what he might do as pope. Among other things, he attended Rosh Hashanah services in 2007, and earlier, in the
aftermath of the terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, the now Francis I was the first public personality to sign a petition calling for justice.
If, as predicted, addressing the needs of the underclass becomes a central concern of Francis’ papacy, he will likely find willing partners in the Jewish community around the world. A shared concern with solving poverty and social problems can lead to the very “renewed collaboration in service of the world” that the pope described in his note to the chief rabbi of Rome. We look forward to that partnership in furtherance of the mutual goal of tikkun olam.