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Rome’s chief rabbi discusses upcoming papal visit

January 08, 2016

In a newspaper interview, Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, discussed the significance of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

St. John Paul II’s 1986 visit was “the revolution, the watershed,” the rabbi told Corriere della Sera, while Pope Benedict XVI, who visited in 2010, “had a special rapport with Judaism and wished to underscore the continuity. His style was doctrinal, theological, wise, as well as formal.”

Pope Francis “will greet directly the greatest number of people possible,” the rabbi continued. “Religion [is] seen as generating hatred, violence, destruction. Our meeting is intended to send the opposite message: religious diversity as a demonstration of coexistence.”

Rabbi Di Segni added that he still exchanges correspondence, “always handwritten,” with the Pope Emeritus, and that he has had several private conversations with Pope Francis on a variety of topics, including the Society of Jesus and Judaism. He recalled that St. Ignatius of Loyola’s immediate successor, Father Diego Laynez, was descended from Jewish converts, and that Catholics with Jewish ancestry were later forbidden to enter the order.

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