UPDATE: Full story.
ROME — Visiting the Rome synagogue this afternoon, Pope Benedict strongly reaffirmed the church’s commitment to dialogue with the Jews and its modern teachings against anti-Semitism.
He also recalled the church’s request for forgiveness for the failings of Christians and for all they may have done to contribute to “the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.”
“May these wounds be healed forever!” the pope said to applause in the packed synagogue.
Without mentioning Pope Pius XII by name, Pope Benedict responded gently to criticism of the wartime pope, saying that “the Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way” to Jews in Rome who sought to escape Nazi persecution.
A few minutes earlier, in a welcoming talk, Riccardo Pacifici, president of Rome’s Jewish community, said the “silence” of Pope Pius was still painful for the Jewish community. Catholic historians have said the late pope worked quietly but effectively to help Jews, and Pope Benedict recently advanced his beatification cause.
The pope recalled the common religious heritage of Christians and Jews, in particular the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which he said remains “a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a ‘great ethical code’ for all humanity.”
He declared it was the duty of today’s Christians and Jews to “keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of the challenges of our time.”
Here is the Vatican’s English translation of the pope’s talk at the synagogue:
“What marvels the Lord worked for them!
What marvels the Lord worked for us: Indeed we were glad” (Ps 126)
“How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live in unity” (Ps 133)
Dear Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Rome,
President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities,
President of the Jewish Community of Rome,
Friends, Brothers and Sisters,
1. At the beginning of this encounter in the Great Synagogue of the Jews of Rome, the Psalms which we have heard suggest to us the right spiritual attitude in which to experience this particular and happy moment of grace: the praise of the Lord, who has worked marvels for us and has gathered us in his Hèsed, his merciful love, and thanksgiving to him for granting us this opportunity to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity. I wish to express first of all my sincere gratitude to you, Chief Rabbi, Doctor Riccardo Di Segni, for your invitation and for the thoughtful words which you have addressed to me. I wish to thank also the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Mr Renzo Gattegna, and the President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Mr Riccardo Pacifici, for their courteous greetings. My thoughts go to the Authorities and to all present, and they extend in a special way, to the entire Jewish Community of Rome and to all who have worked to bring about this moment of encounter and friendship which we now share.