Pope Francis seeks to put aside misunderstandings with Jews on papal trip


VATICAN CITY (RNS) – During his four-day apostolic visit to Hungary and Slovakia from September 12-15, Pope Francis stressed the importance of Judeo-Catholic relations, which were recently called into question after the Pope would have suggested that Jewish law was obsolete.

“Jews and Christians alike, you strive to no longer see yourselves as strangers but as friends, no longer as enemies but as brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis told Christian representatives and members of the Jewish community of Hungary at the Museum of Fine Arts. in Budapest on Sunday.

The Pope also offered his “best wishes” for the Jewish celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which he called “moments of grace and a call for spiritual renewal”.

Francis implored the faithful of all religions to “leave behind our past misunderstandings” in order to promote fraternity and peace. He also urged Jewish and Christian religious leaders to unite to fight anti-Semitism, “a fuse that must not be allowed to burn.”

At the end of August, the chairman of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See, Rabbi Rasson Arousi, sent a letter to the Vatican criticizing Pope Francis’ comments on the Torah during his audience prayer general on August 11.

The Torah “does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not able to fulfill it,” the pope said, adding that “those who seek life must turn to the promise and its fulfillment. in Christ “.

In his letter to the Vatican, initially reported by Reuters, Arousi warned that the pope’s comments risked rekindling the “teaching of contempt,” when Catholics accused Jews of Christ’s passion and death.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which sought to renew the Catholic Church, rejected anti-Semitic beliefs and promoted dialogue with the Jewish community.

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In Slovakia, Pope Francis addressed the Jewish community again, this time at the Holocaust memorial in Rybné námestie Square in Bratislava, which commemorates the murder of more than 105,000 Jews by the Nazis.

“Dear brothers and sisters, your story is our story, your sufferings are our sufferings,” the Pope said on Monday, after hearing the testimony of a man who survived the deportation.

“In this place, our stories meet again,” said the Pope. “Here, let us affirm together before God our will to persevere on the path of reconciliation and friendship.”

Last Friday, Reuters reported that the Vatican issued a written response to Arousi’s criticism of Pope Francis’ comments, which said his comments referred to the writings of Saint Paul in historical context.

“In his catechesis, the Holy Father makes no mention of modern Judaism; the speech is a reflection on the theology (of Saint Paul) in the historical context of a given era, ”wrote Cardinal Kurt Koch, who heads the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

“The fact that the Torah is crucial for modern Judaism is by no means questioned,” he added.

Koch denied that the Pope “is returning to a so-called ‘doctrine of contempt'” and stressed Francis’ respect for Judaism and his efforts “to deepen the bonds of friendship between the two religious traditions”.

Pope Francis, like his predecessors, visited synagogues and concentration camps. He also cultivated a friendship with Rabbi Abraham Skorka in his native Argentina.

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