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Monday, May 12, 2014
A Pope, a Rabbi, and a Sheikh
HOLY LAND – During his pilgrimage in May, Pope Francis will be joined by Rabbi Abraham Skorka, and Sheikh Omar Abboud, two friends from Argentina with whom, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he worked for Interreligious Dialogue.
They have known each other for over 20 years. Rabbi Abraham Skorka, lately informally referred to as “the Pope’s Rabbi”, is the rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary of Buenos Aires. His friendship with the future Pope, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, gave birth to a long and successful collaboration in interfaith dialogue. Together and over the years they have addressed various questions posed by the modern world to Jews and Christians, such as fundamentalism, atheism, death, the Holocaust, homosexuality and capitalism. Such exchanges, widely publicized at the time by the local TV program “The Bible: dialogue today”, were then included in a book titled “Between Heaven and Earth.”
Since Archbishop Bergoglio became Pope Francis, their friendship has only strengthened. A bridge has been created between the Rabbinical Seminary and the Roman Pontifical Universities. In an interview with Vatican Insider in January 2014, the Rabbi spoke on interreligious dialogue and friendship with the Pope in these terms: “ Our idea is to make a contribution to what dialogue means, to what spirituality means, and what the things of the soul mean, as well as the search for God (…) There is a difference because my friend is Pope, but we follow through with this commitment, though now at a global level”
The Pope and Rabbi share a common dream: “to pray together” and “to show the world that it is possible.” On January 17, 2014, over a kosher breakfast at Saint Martha, this dream began to take life when they decided together to live this historic papal pilgrimage in Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Going together to pray at the Wailing Wall, the holiest place in Judaism after the Temple Mount, and to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, one of the holiest sites in Christendom.
Nevertheless, the rabbi is aware that this visit will be a “real challenge”; Israelis and Palestinians – Jews, Christians and Muslims – indeed, expect much of Pope Francis. In January, Skorka, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, in particular referred to his expectations for this trip: “What I want, what I ask of God, and I hope with all my heart, with prudence and intelligence – because the inhabitants of this region are full of passions – is that the Pope can leave a message of peace and inspire a dimension of peace for all (…) Obviously it will not be easy.” And the Rabbi added: “He will not solve all problems, it is impossible. But I hope he will leave a sign of peace for the people.”
Sheikh Omar Abboud is the former secretary general of the Islamic Center of Argentina. He is also the director of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue, supported by Cardinal Bergoglio since 2006. A longtime friend of the Pope, they have worked together tirelessly for dialogue in Argentina. As a result of their long friendship and collaboration, he will accompany the Pope in the Holy Land as part of the Vatican delegation.
Pope Francis will appear with Jewish, Christian and Muslim speakers, accompanied by his two friends of old from the Institute for Dialogue of Buenos Aires. “This initiative, explained Sheikh to Vatican Insider two days ago, “is part of our national identity, a fruit that was eagerly cultivated by a number of leaders and religious leaders thanks to the key impulse given by the then cardinal Bergoglio to create spaces in which a culture of encounter could be built.” The Sheikh, however, is careful to emphasize “Of course, Buenos Aires is on the other side of the world”, miles away from the Middle Eastern tensions.” But there is much to expect from the dialogue: “Dialogue between religions is not a ‘pure photographic show’. On the contrary, said the Sheikh, it is a genuine and relevant commitment, a commitment that is built, because we know that we cannot move forward without this dialogue.”
Dialogue and prayer: two essential pillars for Archbishop Bergoglio as for Pope Francis. Omar Abboud tells how the archbishop was aware of the virtue of “preventative” dialogue. In November 2012, for example, during violent tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, the future Pope had invited Jews, Muslims, Protestants and Greek Orthodox to pray together for peace in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires.
Posted by Al-Bushra Watch at 4:56 PM