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Vatican newspaper recalls friendship between Pope Pius XI, rabbi

December 10, 2013

Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, David Sciunnach, an Italian rabbi, discussed the friendship between Pope Pius XI, who reigned from 1922 to 1939, and Rabbi Alessandro Elishà da Fano (1847-1935).

The decades-long friendship began when the future pope, then a seminary professor, learned Hebrew from the rabbi.

According to Sciunnach, Fano’s grandson said that during their last meeting in 1935, Rabbi Fano laid his hands on Pope Pius’s head to bless him, and the Pope laid his hands on the rabbi’s head to bless him in turn – an “historic twofold gesture” that was “unthinkable” in the days before the Second Vatican Council.


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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Dec. 10, 2013 7:03 AM ET USA

    This is a fascinating. It is a shame that Catholics at that time did not know about this gesture. Had they seen it or at least heard of it, what crimes might have been forestalled across Europe! Even in Germany, where so many Catholics were locked in the grave sin of antisemitism, knowledge of this mutual blessing might have given them serious reason to pause and reflect. And how it would have heartened those like Jacques Maritain who were fighting this vicious prejudice in the Church!