Vatican City, Oct 12, 2013 / 05:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meeting with members of the Jewish community in Rome, Pope Francis reflected on the tragedies of the past and called for the cultivation of brotherly love and friendship between the Catholic and Jewish people.
“We will remember in a few days the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews of Rome,” said the Holy Father, according to Vatican Radio. “We will remember and pray for the many innocent victims of human barbarity, for their families.” “It will also be an opportunity to keep vigilant so that, under any pretext, any forms of intolerance and anti-Semitism in Rome and the rest of the world not come back to life.” Pope Francis emphasized that Christianity and anti-Semitism are incompatible. “It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” the Pontiff proclaimed. “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let Anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman!” Among those in attendance at the Oct. 11 meeting with the Holy Father were the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the President of the Jewish Community of Rome and the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. Pope Francis reflected on the Oct. 16 1943 deportation of more than 1,000 Jews from Rome under Nazi occupation. Sent to Auschwitz, only 16 ever returned, according to Vatican Radio. Recalling the grave situation faced by the Jewish community during that time, the Pope also noted how local Christians reached out to those in need. “We know how many religious institutions, monasteries and Papal Basilicas, interpreting the will of the Pope, opened their doors in a brotherly welcome, and how many ordinary Christians offered what help they could give, however big or small,” the Pope said. “The vast majority were not aware of the need to update the Christian understanding of Judaism, and perhaps knew very little about the life of the Jewish community,” he remarked. “But they had the courage to do what at that time was the right thing: to protect their brother, who was in danger.” He highlighted this need for “a dialogue of life, that of everyday experience.” In addition to theological and intellectual dialogue, he said, there must be “a real and concrete culture of encounter, which leads to authentic relationships, which exist without prejudice and suspicion.” Recalling his own friendship with a Jewish community in his home country of Argentina, Pope Francis observed that the two faiths share much in common, including the Ten Commandments as a solid basis for morality in a society “disoriented by an extreme diversity of choices and positions, and marked by a relativism which does not have many firm or safe points of reference.” He voiced his hope that a greater culture of encounter may be fostered between the two faith groups, who have been together in the city for centuries. The relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities in Rome has had its share of “misunderstandings and even true grievances,” the Pope acknowledged. “However, it is a story that with the help of God, has for many decades experienced the development of friendly and fraternal relations.” He encouraged the Catholic and Jewish people to continue down a “path of friendship, closeness and fraternity.”