Pope will visit Synagogue of Rome in the New Year

By staff writers
October 15, 2009

In what will be seen as a significant step in Christian-Jewish relations, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Synagogue of Rome on 17 January 2010.

The Vatican announced this week that the pontiff will "meet the local Jewish community for the occasion of the 21st Day for the Study and Development of Dialogue between Catholics and Jews, and of the feast of Mo'ed di Piombo, which falls on the same day."

Mo'ed di Piombo commemorates an event in 1793 when the Jews of Rome escaped an attack by a mob, thanks to a sudden storm which doused the fires that had been ignited against the gates of the ghetto.

In a message sent to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni last month, Pope Benedict said he was anticipating "a visit to your community and to the synagogue, animated by the profound desire to manifest my personal closeness and that of the whole Catholic Church."

Di Segni had invited the Pope to visit the synagogue in January 2006, hoping Benedict XVI's visit could coincide with the 20th anniversary of the historic visit made by Pope John Paul II in April 1986.

That visit marked the first time a Pope had ever entered a Jewish place of worship.

Pope Benedict visited the Synagogue of Cologne, Germany, in August 2005, and the Synagogue of Park East in New York, in April 2008.

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