2013-06-12 Vatican Radio(Vatican Radio) Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, co-author of a book with former Cardinal Bergoglio, was among those present at the Wednesday general audience this week as part of a delegation of Jewish and Catholic participants in an interfaith seminar organized by the Focolare movement. The four day meeting at Castelgandolfo is part of a series of encounters started over 15 years ago to deepen the Catholic-Jewish dialogue in countries around the world. Philippa Hitchen takes a closer look:
Participants in the Focolare Jewish-Catholic encounter said it was important for them to meet with Pope Francis, who made ecumenical and interfaith dialogue the key points of his pastoral ministry as former archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Among the Jewish participants was Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard from Fordham University’s Institute on Religion and Law in New York. At a press briefing following the papal audience, he explained how this interfaith group has worked in a similar way to move the dialogue beyond polite exchanges on different topics to a deeper sense of mutual understanding and support:
"There is a big difference between dialogue which seeks to respect others but is not open to being touched or changed by it....."
Also taking part in the Focolare meeting was Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who together with the former Archbishop Bergoglio of Buenos Aires held a series of interfaith discussions that were published in a book entitled ‘Between Heaven and Earth’.
Rabbi Skorka stressed that dialogue means above all, learning how to step into the other person’s shoes, to increasingly open our hearts and share the thoughts of the other person, even if we are unable to find agreement.
Talking of his experience of working with former Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina, Rabbi Skorka said this spirit of dialogue is key to understanding their joint book. There are no political or religious issues, he said, however difficult, that we couldn’t talk about together.
During the year they were working on the book alongside an Argentinian journalist, all three men lost close family members and were able to share these personal experiences of suffering and bereavement. Cardinal Bergoglio, the Rabbi said, also taught me how to understand better the meaning of death, how to live the pain of the other and how to feel complete empathy with another person.