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Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni at Rome's main synagogue

“Secularization, a slacking of faith . . . was Ratzinger perhaps under siege?” the Italian newspaper  Il Giorno asked Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni . The rabbi answered:

This Pope has never given in on anything, I don’t believe in a possible surrender, as someone says. Secularization, moreover, is an ancient issue; don’t you think the Papacy had an even harder time during Risorgimento’s secularized Italy? In case, it was more internal inconsistency and compromises that must have concerned him.

Asked about his wishes for the conclave, Di Segni answered,
The key issues to us are: survival and world impact. We rejoice that at a time when radical Islam is thriving, the Church is amicable. Luckily Providence created an awkward alternation through the centuries . . . . World impact means creativity, realizing that our push to modernity is a positive drive. Hence, [we welcome] a non-hostile Pope that favours an in-progress alliance with us.

He speaks well of Benedict and his relation to Jews, a “clear relationship” in which the pope “emphasized [Christianity’s] continuity with Judaism.” But, said the newspaper, Benedict’s “dialogue with Jews did not look so brilliant when he stated that dialogue was a fuction of evangelization.” Di Segni replied:
You see, I still have to find a Christian on earth, who does not think it is bizarre that Jews do not yet believe in Jesus Christ.  The issue then is what they do with this diagnosis, if then they think that these “perfidi Giudei” urgently need to be converted, or else if the matter will one day be solved in its eschatological dimension. Mutual respect is actually what is needed . . . . Benedict XVI presented it to us, even more.

It’s hard to know exactly what he said, this being a translation, but very many Christians, including Benedict, don’t think it “bizarre” or even difficult to understand why Jews do not become Christians. We haven’t exactly made the most winsome appeal through history. But that aside, it is an interesting and encouraging interview.

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