Following a meeting of Jewish leaders with Pope Francis last week, a rabbi involved in interreligious dialogue said the Pope’s upcoming trip to the Holy Land will surely be a success. “Everybody -- whether Jordanians, Palestinians or Israelis -- is so excited and ready to welcome him that no matter how short his visit is, it's a guaranteed success,” said David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, said in a Feb. 13 news conference in Rome. "Hopefully he will leave behind a sense of greater hope for the future. That's what the Middle East needs.” Rosen was among the 55-member delegation that met Pope Francis that day, whom he asked to pray for his Holy Land pilgrimage, that it “may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope, and peace.” Pope Francis’ visit to Holy Land is scheduled for May 24-26. Speaking of their meeting with the Pope, Rosen said that “we have gone has friends and we have been welcomed as friends; it was a sort of family meeting.” The Roman Pontiff’s address to the American Jewish Committee highlighted the nearly 50 years of dialogue between Catholics and Jews since “Nostra aetate,” Vatican II’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions. “In addition to dialogue, it is also important to find ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate in constructing a more just and fraternal world,” he said. “In this regard, I call to mind in a particular way our common efforts to serve the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer.” “Finally, in order that our efforts may not be fruitless, it is important that we dedicate ourselves to transmitting to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship which has … grown over these years. It is my hope therefore that the study of relations with Judaism may continue to flourish in seminaries and in centres of formation for lay Catholics, as I am similarly hopeful that a desire for an understanding of Christianity may grow among young Rabbis and the Jewish community.” Rosen shared with CNA that “Pope Francis really knows the Jewish world: he went to synagogues, he has Jewish friends, and in our intimacy, we feel understood.” The American Jewish Committee spent two days in Rome, meeting also with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State. Their talks focused on religious freedom, and Rosen emphasized that “the negative experience lived in Jewish history” can be of help and support to Christian who are now facing anti-Christian persecution. Fr. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the Vatican’s Commission for the Religious Relations with the Jews, stated that “being friends is the best way to carry on dialogue.” Fr. Hofmann outlined three paths of dialogue: the first is to develop the “theological dimension of dialogue,” because “Christian roots are Jewish, and because Christ was Jewish.” The second path is “collaboration for justice and charity, with a priority to the poor, the homeless, and sick and marginalized people.” The third path, he said, is a closer and more visible collaboration in education. Rosen underscored to CNA that “Christians need to understand Judaism more, since their roots are in Judaism,” and added that Jewish-Catholic dialogue has “no news, but the dialogue is always improving.”
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