In the headlines: The Pope's visit to Tempio Maggiore
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Towards the same door

Two identical armchairs, of the same color and form: each with his own psalms, and the same measure for their speeches: the encounter of John Paul II with the Chief Rabbi in the synagogue on the shores of the Tiber river, gave due attention to create the perfect equality. The chairs of these two principal personalities of this historic scene were not placed facing each other so that it did not become conflicting. Nor were they placed like onlookers: it did not deal with presenting the public with two religions with alternating expositions. Turned one toward the other in the same angle, like two ships coming from two different points on the horizon and presenting themselves in front of the same port, presenting the idea of a rapprochement not yet attained but on a good route: in any case, peaceful, in the face of a hint of harsh wind.

(Andre Frossard, Avvenire, April 15, 1986)

Pope John's project

In the Synagogue, John Paul II, tried to put right the errors of history. He said with passion: «You are our favorite brothers, our older brothers». But in the Jewish temple in Rome, there was another figure of pope which filled the space of that temple. It was to him that everyone referred to, with affection and devotion: the president of the Jewish Community in Rome, Giacomo Saban; the Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff; John Paul II. Toaf recalled: «John XXIII, the first pope who, on one Saturday morning, stopped to bless the Jews of Rome who were coming out of this temple after prayers». Even Wojtyla hinted at this episode and then told another: «In the night preceding the death of Pope John - he said - the Chief Rabbi did not hesitate to go to Saint Peter's Square, accompanied by a group of Jewish pilgrims, to pray and to hold a vigil, mixed amongst the crowd of Catholics and other Christians, almost to render testimony, in a silent but very effective way, to the greatness of the soul of that pontiff, open to everyone without distinction, and in particular to the Jewish brothers».

(Domenico Del Rio, La Repubblica, April 15, 1986)

The most persuasive ecumenical encounter

The most intense and spiritually rich moment in every sense of the encounter with the Pope in the Roman synagogue, were those few minutes of silence and of prayer after their reciprocal speeches and the reading of the psalms. Listening to those words of involving fraternity, there was a certainty that the "crying wall" of hostile division and often violent between Christianity and Judaism, started to crumble. It was the most persuasive Ecumenical and moving encounter of the entire millennium. Yet again the hope of John XXIII - «looking more for that which unites than that which divides» - and his own example, recalled with emotion by both Elio Toaff and John Paul II, gave the spirit and the focus of this truly historic event which everyone hopes will also be irreversible.

(Nazareno Fabbretti, La Stampa, April 14, 1986)

A spectacular relaunching of dialogue

After centuries of ignorance, hostility and persecutions, the road to Judeo-Christian dialogue, of almost two centuries, is marked by these gestures. First by the Council, Jules Isaac goes to John XXIII: «May I nurture hope?» asked the pioneer of Judeo-Christian relations in France. «You have a right - responds the Pope - to more than just hope». Unforeseen by the order of the day of Vatican II, the relations between Catholicism and Judaism provided material for one of the most beautiful texts of the Council, Nostra Aetate, whose anniversary was solemnly celebrated by the Romans last year. Condemning every type of anti-Semitism, this document evokes for the first time the existence of a "common patrimony" which spiritually unites Jews and Christians. The step by Karol Wojtyla, who had already broken with anti-Semitism in certain Polish Catholic environments, signed up on this line... A gesture of universal proportions, enough to relaunch the Judeo-Christian dialogue, weakened by the holding of suspicions of some - reawakened by the painful affair of the construction of a chapel at Auschwitz - and of the lack of diplomatic recognition of the State of Israel on the part of the Holy See.

(Henri Tincq, Le Monde, April 13-14 1986)

The trunk and its branches

Israel, the people of the Bible, is the root and the Church is the trunk of the tree of the Lord. For two millennium the roots were detached from the trunk and the trunk from its roots. On one side and the other we have the urgent need to put the trunk on its roots, and the roots under the trunk, until the tree of God produces leaves and better fruit, able to quench the thirst and the hunger of humanity.

(Andre Chouraqui, Realites d'Israel, April 17, 1986)

A hug that goes into history

The hug with Rabbi Toaff goes into history like the one of John XXIII with the Anglican Ramsey or that of Paul VI with Athenagoras. A courageous gesture, of the kind that call the stamp from the Spirit. The developments will come according to the times which the Lord of history has set according to his designs. But the strewn seed cannot but come to fruition. In the ecclesial context, to tell the truth, the soil to welcome this seed had already been made ready and fertilized in the last twenty years: the rediscovery of the centrality of the word of God in the liturgy and in the catechesis has notably contributed to help us rediscover our roots, from Abraham to Christ, who was a Jew just as was Mary, Peter and Paul, the Apostles and the first martyr Stephen. How can we not feel, reading the Bible during the Mass, tied to the people of the promise?

(Iesus, May 1986)

I feel catholic, I feel jewish

I would like for the visit of the Pope to the Synagogue of Rome to remind Christians that, today, different from the years of persecution, they know nothing of the Jews and of the Jewish tradition. I fear that also the Jews have forgotten the Maimonide or the Zohar of Izchak Luria. But, if we have forgotten the Jews, it is only because we have forgotten ourselves, throwing behind our shoulders Origene or Augustine as though they were a useless bundle. Only by looking at it back there, toward the time of Christ, of the Diaspora and those times in which Islam was born, we would understand that all the divisions of today are absurd, and that through the massacres and the violence of history someone has designed for all of us a sole picture, an incredible profile of beauty.

(Pietro Citati, Corriere della Sera, April 14, 1986)

Here is the true devolopment

Here, unexpectedly on the screens of Europe which remains the center of Catholicism, there appears a live image of a Pope who, for the first time in history, enters in the Synagogue next to a Rabbi. The images show them moving to the Teva, the altar, with the same following of Cardinals and Rabbis, sitting next to each other, looking into each others eyes, smiling at each other and finally, after the ceremonial speeches and psalms, hug each other. What kind of impact could this series of images have had on the hundreds of millions of spectators? Here is the true development, explosive, capable, more than any Declaration, speech, encyclical, of breaking the nodes of prejudice, of canceling innumerable predications of the past, to propose to the Catholic and Christian world a vision of Judaism that is finally correct. And if its true that our time is a time of images, which higher or more authoritarian stamp on this new page of the Church than that of the maximum authority of the Pope? This image of the Pope in the Synagogue will remain in souls and will mark consciences.

(Shalom, n. April 4, 1986)

The common prayer

Nostra Aetate speaks of a spiritual patrimony shared by Jews and by Christians. It recommends mutual comprehension, fraternal dialogue and cooperation between Jews and Christians. Yet we observe that it is not part of the common prayer. In his visit to the Synagogue of Rome, John Paul II did not please himself with confirming the new ecumenical teaching, but took a step forward. Following the logic of the new teaching, he prayed with the Jewish Community.

(Gregory Baum, Concilium, n. 213-1987)