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Pope visits Roman synagogue

January 18, 2016

Following visits by St. John Paul II (1986) and Pope Benedict XVI (2010), Pope Francis has become the third pope to visit the Great Synagogue of Rome.

During his January 17 visit, the Pope recalled the 1943 deportation of Jews from Rome and the 1982 terrorist bombing of the synagogue. He also spoke with Holocaust survivors.

In 1986, “John Paul II coined the beautiful description ‘elder brothers,’ and in fact you are our brothers and sisters in the faith,” Pope Francis said. “We all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us, His people.”

The Pope continued:

The [Second Vatican] Council, with the Declaration Nostra Aetate, has indicated the way: “yes” to rediscovering Christianity’s Jewish roots; “no” to every form of anti-Semitism and blame for every wrong, discrimination and persecution deriving from it.” Nostra Aetate explicitly defined theologically for the first time the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism …

From a theological point of view, it is clear there is an inseparable bond between Christians and Jews. Christians, to be able to understand themselves, cannot not refer to their Jewish roots, and the Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, recognizes the irrevocability of the Covenant and God’s constant and faithful love for Israel.

The Pope also spoke of “the big challenges facing the world today,” including ecology, peace, and the defense of life.

“In its history, the Jewish people has had to experience violence and persecution, to the point of extermination of European Jews during the Holocaust,” he added toward the conclusion of his address. “Six million people, just because they belonged to the Jewish people, were victims of the most inhumane barbarity perpetrated in the name of an ideology that wanted to replace God with man. On October 16, 1943, over a thousand men, women and children of Rome’s Jewish community were deported to Auschwitz. Today I wish to remember them in a special way: their suffering, their fear, their tears must never be forgotten.”

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