On his way to an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Pope Benedict made a quick stop at Park East Synagogue and greeted the worshippers gathered there.
The Pope was greeted by the synagogue’s chief rabbi, who recalled the progress of Catholic-Jewish relations over the past 45 years and invoked the time of renewal marked by the Passover as a sign of hope for inter-religious dialogue.
“Shalom!” the Pope greeted the Jewish congregation with.
“It is with joy that I come here, just a few hours before the celebration of your Pesah, to express my respect and esteem for the Jewish community in New York City,” he said.
Benedict also reflected on the setting of his brief visit, saying, “I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this.”
He concluded his words with a word of encouragement for the synagogue.
“I know that the Jewish community make a valuable contribution to the life of the city, and I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood. I assure you most especially of my closeness at this time, as you prepare to celebrate the great deeds of the Almighty, and to sing the praises of Him who has worked such wonders for his people. I would ask those of you who are present to pass on my greetings and good wishes to all the members of the Jewish community. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
The two leaders also exchanged gifts. Pope Benedict gave Rabbi Schneier a medieval Jewish manuscript from the Vatican and Rabbi Schneier gave the Pope a golden plate used for the Passover celebration.
Before the Pope processed out of the synagogue, a group of children sang for him and presented him with a bouquet of flowers.