Almudena Calatrava and Damian Pachter, North West News 9, Mar.18
The election of Pope Francis has thrilled Jewish leaders in Argentina, who predict that their friend will continue to foster warm relations and open dialogue between Catholicism and other faiths during his pontificate.
They’ve seen it firsthand as recently as December, when then-Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio lit the first candle on the menorah at Temple NCI-Emanu El during a Hanukkah ceremony.
“He’s got a very deep capacity for dialogue with other religions,” Rabbi Alejandro Avruj told The Associated Press on Monday, recalling the moment. “He spoke of light as renovation, of the re-inauguration of the temple of Jerusalem 2,200 years ago, and the need to carry light to the world.”
As Tuesday’s papal installation ceremony draws dozens of Jewish, Orthodox and other Christian leaders to the Vatican, those who knew Bergoglio in his previous role say he considered healing divisions between religions a major part of the Catholic Church’s mission.
“He’s the one who opened the cathedral of Buenos Aires for interfaith ceremonies, like when we prayed for peace. He’s not one of those who waits for you to call them to participate in these events – he promotes them,” said Avruj, who met Bergoglio after both leaders launched projects in the same slum in a gritty area of southern Buenos Aires.
Bergoglio brought leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, evangelical and Orthodox Christian faiths into the Metropolitan Cathedral to pray for peace in the Middle East last November. “Everything is lost with war, everything is gained through peace,” Bergoglio said then. “With peace wins victory and respect.”
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