Vatican City, May 23, 2004 / 22:00 pm
Pope John Paul II condemned anti-Semitism this Monday using the words of the Second Vatican Council, “clearly and definitively…in all its expressions.” But he also stressed that “it is not enough to deplore and condemn hostility against the Jewish people; … it is necessary to also foster friendship, esteem and fraternal relations with them.”
The Pope’s words were contained in a message to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, on the occasion of the centenary of the synagogue in the Italian capital. They were read during a commemorative service on Sunday by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of Rome. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, was also present to represent the Holy Father.
In the message, the Holy Father sends special greetings to the former Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff, who received him during his historic visit made on April 13, 1986. “This event,” he writes, “remains instilled in my memory and in my heart as a symbol of the newness that has characterized in the last few decades relations between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, after periods which were sometimes difficult and sad.”
He then recalled the victims of the Holocaust, and especially members of the Jewish community of Rome who in October of 1943 were taken to Auschwitz. “May their memory lead us to work as brothers.”