The Holy Father called attention to his visit to the Synagogue of Rome in his address before the Angelus on Sunday to a packed St. Peter's Square. With just hours left before the much-awaited encounter, Pope Benedict XVI anticipated it as a way to renew “harmony and friendship” between Catholics and Jews.
"This afternoon," said Benedict XVI, "at almost 24 years from the historic visit of Venerable John Paul II, I will go to the great Synagogue of Rome, called the Tempio Maggiore, to meet the Jewish Community of the city."
This encounter, continued the Holy Father, would mark the beginning of "a further stage in the road of harmony and friendship between Catholics and Jews."
Recognizing that the path has not been without its "problems and difficulties," he underscored the current "climate of great respect and dialogue" between the two religions.
This, said Pope Benedict, is "a testimony of how much the relations have matured and of the common commitment to value that which unites: faith in the one God, first of all, but also (in) the protection of life and of the family, the aspiration to social justice and to peace."
At 4:30 p.m. local time in Rome on Sunday, the Holy Father will meet with leaders and Rabbis of the Jewish community of Rome, greater Italy and abroad at the Synagogue of Rome. On the schedule for the two hours he will spend there are acts to pay homage to Roman Jews who were deported from the city and killed at the hands of the Nazis in 1943, the exchange of addresses from leaders of the Jewish community and the Pope and the opening of an exhibition at the adjacent Jewish Museum of Rome.