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​Francis at the Major Temple of Rome

· On Sunday afternoon, 17 January ·

On Sunday, 17 January, the day which, in Italy, dialogue between Catholics and Jews is celebrated, Pope Francis visited the Major Temple of Rome as testimony of the irreversible and progressive growth in mutual awareness and friendship.

Exactly six years after the visit of Benedict XVI, Francis is the third Pontiff to visit what is one of Europe’s oldest Synagogues. Thirty years ago, on 13 April 1986, it was John Paul II, welcomed by Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff, who was the first to meet the Jews of Rome, making a decisive impression on relations between the two communities. These relations were also impacted by the Conciliar Declaration promulgated by Paul VI, Nostra Aetate, the 50th anniversary of which was marked just weeks ago. Sunday’s visit was opened in the afternoon with a commemoration of the two wounds inflicted in the last century upon the most ancient community of the Jewish Diaspora: Francis went first to the commemorative plaque which bears the date 16 October 1943, the day on which the SS invaded the ghetto and deported 1,024 Roman Jews to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The Pontiff then went on to the site which commemorates the terrorist attack of 1982, which claimed the life of young Stefano Gay Taché and wounded 27 Roman Jews. The homage to the victims and their families was as meaningful as were the words spoken thereafter inside the Temple. At a time in which the entire human community continues to be struck by hatred motivated by racism, and which uses the name of God as an excuse to kill, the fraternal encounter between Catholics and Jews tells the world that the name of God is instead lived out in dialogue and witnessed to in peace.

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