Rabbi Abraham Skorka believes that Pope Francis' election offers a chance for Christian-Jewish relationships to grow, especially as the world experiences a crisis of belief.

The difficulties religions are facing in the modern world prompted Rabbi Skorka to ask how Jews and Catholics can "re-create the dialogue we experienced and lived in Buenos Aires," since his "querido amigo Jorge Mario Bergoglio" is the Pope.

Rabbi Skorka, who is from Argentina, came to Italy to participate in a Jewish-Christian dialogue organized by the Focolari Movement in Castel Gandolfo, just 15 miles southeast of Rome.

On Wednesday morning, the group attended Pope Francis' general audience, and "for the first time this morning" – Skorka told CNA June 12 –  "I was able to greet the Pope."

According to Gustavo Clarià, an Argentinian member of the Focolari movement, Rabbi Skorka became sympathetic to Catholic religion when he took part in one of the several Jewish-Catholic round table discussions organized by Focolari in Argentina.

Alberto Barlocci, former director of the Argentinian magazine Ciudad Nueva said June 11 that "interreligious dialogue is a matter of fact in Argentina. Catholics, Jews, even the small Muslim community always concretely live the dialogue among religions."

This is the ground in which the friendship of Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio flourished.

Rabbi Skorka said that the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires "proved to me several times that he is a true friend."  

"Not casually," he added, "we wrote a book together on dialogue." Their aim with "Between Heaven and Earth" was to find concrete path to experience and live dialogue between religions.

Rabbi Mario Burman from the Jewish Organization for Interreligious Dialogue in Argentina explained at a June 12 media briefing in Rome that Cardinal Bergoglio "made ecumenism and interreligious dialogue one of the pillars of his pastoral work."

For his part, Rabbi Skorka sees several similarities between the Jewish-Christian dialogue of the first centuries and the Jewish-Christian dialogue of today.

He asserted, "even in the Talmud, we can find the blossoms of the dialogue among the first communities of Christians and Jews."

The first centuries after Christ were a difficult time for Jewish world, with its tradition truncated by the fall and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

And today religions are suffering through a difficult time.

The 2013 annual world report on the Social Doctrine of the Church, issued by the Van Thuan Observatory, stressed that Argentina is one of the countries undergoing the strongest assault by secularizing forces.

"It is now time" – Rabbi Skorka stated – "to recreate the kind of dialogue the first Christians and Jews had, to overcome the crisis."