The Holy Father joined in the celebration of the birthday of the former rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, with a telegram on Monday. He recalled the rabbi's role in history of the Jewish community of Rome, his work towards improving inter-religious relations and his friendship with John Paul II.
Pope Benedict's message was read aloud by his personal secretary Msgr. George Ganswein during the ceremony to inaugurate the new Elio Toaff Foundation for Hebrew Culture in Rome.
The Holy Father stated his wish to join all those who celebrated the gifts with which "the mercy of the Most High" has blessed Rabbi Toaff along the course of his 95 years.
"I think, using the expressions of the Psalm, how the Lord restored your soul, leading you along the right path, even through the darkest valley, at the time of the persecution and extermination of the Jewish People.
"The Lord, in His mysterious plans, wished you to have a unique experience of His salvation, becoming a sign of hope for the rebirth of many of your brothers and sisters."
Rabbi Toaff was remembered by the president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, on the same day, as "the man that made the history of our century" and revived the community after the Holocaust.
Elio Toaff was the chief rabbi of Rome for 50 years, from 1951 to 2001.
The Pope wrote to the rabbi that he was particularly pleased to recall his "commitment to promoting fraternal relations between Catholics and Jews, and the sincere friendship that bound you to my venerated predecessor Pope John Paul II."
The telegram concluded with Benedict XVI’s hope that the words from Psalm 23 would be fulfilled for Rabbi Toaff, that "Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come."