Since Pope Benedict's visit to the Synagogue of Rome on Sunday, media outlets have produced countless stories on the state of relations between the two religions. Despite the climax of the encounter, dialogue between the two continues to be a work in progress and important talks have immediately followed the occasion.
Representatives from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews have been holding talks since the afternoon visit between the Pope and the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
Meetings between the delegations began after the Sunday synagogue visit and ended on Tuesday afternoon after seven sessions promoting Catholic-Jewish dialogue. The sessions closed with a lecture by the French priest and expert in Judaism Father Patrick Debois, who spoke on the Holocaust.
The meetings were developed around the theme "Catholic and Jewish teaching on Creation and the Environment. The challenges of human intervention in the natural order."
Fr. Norbert Hofman, secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews told Vatican Radio this week that the symposium offered the delegations a welcome return to normal relations after some turbulent times.
Due to the changing of the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews in the Latin-language 1962 Roman Missal and the comments made about the Holocaust by the recently reinstated Pius X Society Bishop Richard Williamson, representatives of the two faiths had not met in two years, Fr. Hofman noted.
"Now, after two years, we meet again, and this is a good sign,” the secretary for dialogue said. “These meetings have always been characterized by a friendly atmosphere,” he explained, adding that he is happy to be meeting with his "Jewish friends" again.
When he was asked if the dialogue is influenced by the changes in the political climate, Fr. Hofman replied, “Maybe political situation could influence a little, but our primary aim is an exchange of religious ideas, a dialogue on a religious level."
Members of the Jewish delegation include four chief rabbis, three of which are from Israel, the secretary general of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Director of International Affairs of the American Jewish Committee.
The Catholic delegation is composed of Cardinal Jorge Mejia, retired archivist of the Vatican secret archives, Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco and six others including two archbishops and the Custos of the Holy Land.