Pope will meet rabbis to help restore breach with Jews

Tuesday, February 15, 2000 | Tag Cloud Tags:

Pope will meet rabbis to help restore breach with Jews

JERUSALEM, 15 February 2000 (Newsroom) — Seeking to heal strained relations with Jews, Pope John Paul II has agreed to meet with Israel’s chief rabbis during his historic visit to the Holy Land in March, according to a Vatican diplomat.

Since the Vatican’s recognition of Israel in 1994, the pope has helped repair damaged Catholic-Jewish relations by acknowledging the church’s past mistreatment of Jews and the failure of Catholics to act during the Holocaust. Still, differences remain and both sides view the visit as an opportunity to forge closer ties. The pope has designated March 8, 2000, as a day for worldwide reconciliation between Jews and Christians.

John Paul II’s visit will be the first by a pontiff since 1964 when Paul VI became the first pope since the 1st century to journey to the Holy Land.

Responding to the wishes of Jewish leaders, the pope has agreed to meet with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron on Jewish official premises — the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem — rather than at a Christian site or a tourist attraction. Originally, Vatican officials had planned that the Jewish and Catholic leaders would meet at the Western Wall.

The pope will pay a separate visit to Muslim leaders, papal nuncio Monsignor Pietro Sambi said at a recent symposium in Israel arranged by the Jerusalem-based Elijah School for the Study of Wisdom in World Religions and the U.S.-based Sacred Heart University’s Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding. The pope will meet the mufti of Jerusalem at his offices near Al-Aksa. “What is important is that everyone is equally respected,” the nuncio said.

Sambi noted that details for the visit were not finalized and it is too early to rule out a meeting of leaders of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — a gathering favored by the Vatican. Elijah School director Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein said that he has been involved in an attempt to arrange such a meeting and remains hopeful that it will take place.

During the symposium participants expressed both hopes and fears about what they agreed would be a historic event. Leaders in attendance included Msgr. Remi Hoeckman, secretary of the Vatican Commission for Relations with the Jews, Haifa Chief Rabbi She’ar-Yashuv Cohen, Daniel Rossing, consultant on Christian-Jewish relations to the Jerusalem Foundation, Ibrahim Sarsur, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, head of the Sufi Naqshabandian Order in Jerusalem.

Islamic leader Sarsur said that he wanted the pope to apologize for the Crusades, just as he had apologized to the Jews for the Holocaust and to the native peoples of South America for their suffering at the hands of the representatives of the Catholic Church.

Sambi responded that history had not started with the Crusades and that each group must ask forgiveness of the other. “We shouldn’t look to history only for that which is in our favor. We have to look objectively at history to build a better future,” the papal nuncio said.

Copyright © 2000 Newsroom.
Used with permission.

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