He and Pope Francis exchanged letters soon after Francis' election
“It is my sincere hope that I shall be able to contribute to the progress that Jewish-Catholic relations have known since the time of the Second Vatican Council, in a spirit of renewed collaboration, and at the service of a world that can always be in greater harmony with the will of the Creator.”
This was the message that Pope Francis sent to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, on the very day of his election as Bishop of Rome. In a written reply to the pope’s message, Di Segni stated: “I wish to express my best wishes to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, elected Pope Francis, that he may guide the Catholic Church in the coming years with strength and wisdom.” The rabbi continued: “The Church’s relations with the Jewish Community in Rome and its dialogue with Judaism have made significant strides. Our hope is that we may continue on this journey as a sign of continuity and good relations.”
On Wednesday morning, Di Segni participated together with the President of the Jewish Community in Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, and the President of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna, in an audience which Pope Francis held in the Clementine Hall with representatives of various churches, ecclesial communities and other religions.
Aleteia had the opportunity to ask Rabbi Di Segni his impressions about the meeting:
How did Pope Francis seem up close?
Di Segni: My impression was that he is a very kind, sensitive and attentive person. The declaration of intent presented during the meeting in the Vatican with representatives of the Jewish community and other religious confessions is one that we completely accept.
Pope Francis pointed out that, in addition to intervening in social life, it is the responsibility of the various religions “to keep alive the thirst for the absolute” …
Di Segni: Naturally, each religion has its own way of pursing this need, but keeping the thirst for the absolute alive in today’s world is the very essence of religion.
The Pope reaffirmed the very special spiritual bond that exists between Jews and Christians, and the fruits of dialogue that have matured in the post-conciliar era …
Di Segni: And so it is. Christianity is rooted in Judaism and this creates a special bond. And it is also true that there has been a positive trend in the dialogue, despite the difficulties. We must continue on in this task, through the channels already in place. There are still several issues to be resolved, but we continue on in the hope of obtaining further results.
What did the Pope say when he greeted you personally?
Di Segni: The greeting was very brief. It was a moment to express our appreciation for his attention to our community, and our best wishes. We hope to put this good will and openness into practice.