If the Jewish world was waiting for a sign from Pope Francis regarding his relations with its community, it didn't take long.
In his first day as Pope today, Francis I wrote to the Chief Rabbi of the Rome Jewish Community, Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, inviting him to his Inauguration on March 19 , and expressing his hope of a renewed collaboration with the Jewish Community.
“I strongly hope to be able to contribute to the progress that the relations between Jews and Catholics have known since the Second Vatican Council,” the Pope wrote. ” in a spirit of renewed collaboration and in the service of a world that can always be in more harmony with the will of the Creator.”
Rome-based Vatican observers called the missive a good start. They expect Rabbi Di Segni to reciprocate the invitation, and will invite Pope Francesco to visit him in the Synagogue, following the tradition started by Chief Rabbi Toaff with John Paul II, and continued by Rabbi Di Segni with Benedict XVI last year.
“As far as I have heard and read in the few minutes since he was elected pope, he has shown deep signs of respect and friendship towards the Jews,” said Rabbi Di Segni told Reuters news agency. “It's a good starting point.”
In his native Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, had close relationships with Jewish leaders.
“In the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, the widely shared impression is that he’s very friendly, that the cardinal was determined to have a cordial relationship with the Jewish community,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said.
Rob Eshman is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.