"The Catholic Church is close to you and is your friend," the pope told the rabbi Jan. 16 during a meeting at the Vatican.
Pope Benedict said Christians believe that, in Christ, they have become part of God's chosen people, sharing the blessings and the call to serve the Lord.
"That makes us Christians aware that, together with you, we have the responsibility to cooperate for the good of all peoples in justice and peace, in truth and freedom, in holiness and love," the pope said.
Sharing a mission with the Jewish people, he said, Christians must fight "hatred and misunderstanding, injustice and the violence which continues to sow concern in the souls of men and women of good will. In this context, how can we not be saddened and worried by the renewed signs of anti-Semitism that are sometimes seen."
Pope Benedict told Rabbi Di Segni that he thanked God for remaining faithful to his covenant with the Israelites and for protecting and saving the Jewish people.
"The people of Israel were freed several times from the hands of their enemies, and through centuries of anti-Semitism, in the dramatic moments of the Shoah (Holocaust), the hand of the Almighty has supported and guided them," he said.
The pope also told the rabbi that the many challenges facing people in Rome and in the world, "call us to join our hands and hearts in concrete initiatives of solidarity, 'tzedek' (justice) and 'tzedekah' (charity)."
Rabbi Di Segni told Pope Benedict that a fresco in a Rome chapel shows a pope and a rabbi standing before the emperor, engaged in a contest to demonstrate who had greater power.
If any competition is valid today, he said, it is only competition in demonstrating fidelity to one's faith, service to others and ways to witness to and apply the values Jews and Christians share.
"The Jewish Rome and Christian Rome which meet each other, respect each other, live together in peace and collaborate, but remain faithful to themselves, are an example for a world torn by conflicts," often enflamed by supposedly religious ideals, he said.
Rabbi Di Segni said Catholic-Jewish relations around the world and in Rome improved tremendously under Pope John Paul II and he was sure progress would continue with Pope Benedict, whose theological counsel supported the decisions of his predecessor.
The rabbi told Pope Benedict that the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul's visit to the Rome synagogue would be marked in April.
"It was a unique event, but there is nothing to prevent it being repeated by the new pope, who is always welcome," the rabbi told the pope.
- Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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