An interfaith forum on the Pope’s visit

Christian Media Center
06 February, 2014

An interfaith forum was held in Jerusalem Sunday, February 2 in preparation for the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land. At the heart of the meeting were the steps taken in the dialogue between Christians and Jews, under the leadership of John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and currently Pope Francis.

A very cordial meeting. An interfaith forum between Christians and the Jewish community. “Pope Francis in the Holy Land: a sign of hope for peace between religions”: this is the subject chosen by the Elijah Interfaith Institute for the meeting that was held in Jerusalem Sunday, February 2.
From the very the opening of the forum, Peta Pellach expressed the affection of the Jewish community for the new Pope and called him “my dad.”

For Rabbi David Rosen, the document Nostra Aetate—that first talks about the relationship between Jews and Christians—has opened the door to dialogue. And he stressed: “We live in a revolutionary moment in history.”


International Director of Interreligious Affairs – American Jewish Committee

“It’s a historic transformation, that is incomparable to any other relationship. We must bear in mind our history is primarily a tragic one, a tragic one of denial. And this rediscovery of what both Pope Francis has reiterated, after Pope Benedict and John Paul II, is brotherhood.”

Rabbi David Rosen is member of the Permanent Bilateral Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel for the dialogue between the two states. He also accompanied John Paul II in 2000 in his historic encounter with the Jewish community and Benedict XVI, in 2009, in his meeting with the chief rabbis of Israel. Two historical moments, with two pontiffs’ visits to the Holy Land.


International Director of Interreligious Affairs – American Jewish Committee

“John Paul II, speaking of the Jews as ‘the older brother’ but you know Pope Benedict says that maybe you mustn’t talk about ‘older brother’ because in the Hebrew Bible, the older brother does not come out very well. So, he spoke about ‘the parentage.’ But this understanding and this sensitivity historically is a very new thing. It’s a revolution with only 50 years. It’s 50 years. But historically, it wasn’t the case. And therefore, this is an exciting, I would say, manifestation of the Holy Spirit that has brought this rediscovery and unity of the Jewish people and the Christian world closer and closer together under the guidance of these popes.”

Even Monsignor William Shomali is optimistic about the path already taken and hopes for what is to come. But he warns that even living in the age of communication, we cannot expect immediate results. There is a time for everything.
The Elijah Interfaith Institute is an international organization that aims to promote peace between communities of different faiths in the world, through interreligious dialogue.


Founder Elijah Interfaith Institute

“How did come to this idea? I think through the inspiration of the Prophet Elijah. That’s why it’s named after him. Someone who gives the vision of preparation for future peace through deeper understanding.”

Peta Pellach believes that women have a very important role in interreligious dialogue.


Educational Director – Elijah Interfaith Institute

“One of the things is that men often represent institutions or formal positions and feel very bound and constricted by the official positions of their Church or Organization, and women can speak more from their heart. Women are able to speak from the position of their deep faith and deep humanity, and are not necessarily restricted in the same way because of their formal position or status in an organization.”

In different ways, speaking from the heart, with reason, but especially giving continuity to the path taken, without denying their close history.


International Director of Interreligious Affairs – American Jewish Committee

“This pope has served in a community where he has engaged with the Jewish community and it has been part of his own experience, opening up the cathedral for Shoah, the Holocaust commemoration, visiting synagogues, celebrating festivals, writing a book with a rabbi. This is absolutely unimaginable. If you‘d told my grandparents that one day there would be a pope who would write a book with a rabbi, they would’ve thought it was a joke. It wouldn’t have been believable. So, not only do we have a pope who is confirming this way but we have a pope who, in terms of his own personal relationship, is deepening this relationship even further.”