A goal in the Vatican - World Jewish Congress

A goal in the Vatican

Claudio Epelman
Claudio Epelman
WJC Commissioner for Interfaith Relations, World Jewish Congress
A goal in the Vatican

WJC Executive Committee and Future Leadership attended a private audience of His Holiness Pope Francis (c) Shahar Azran / World Jewish Congress

Nobody knows in advance what events will go down in history. However, last month at the Vatican, something very special happened: Pope Francis welcomed in his home the leaders of over 100 Jewish communities from all over the world, to hold there for the first time ever, the Executive Committee meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC). 

“Dear friends, I thank you most heartily for this visit, which testifies to and strengthens the bonds of friendship uniting us” was Francis’ greeting to his guests on November 22nd, in a large hall of the Apostolic Palace, and the emotion of all those present materialized in a moving applause. That was because it was the first time in history that an international Jewish organization held its meeting in the Vatican, and the epic atmosphere was felt in a Tuesday rainy morning in Rome. We should not forget that at precisely that time the Argentine soccer team was making its debut in Qatar. 

The reason for the meeting was the launch of “Kishrenu” (which in Hebrew means “our bond”), a collaborative initiative promoted by the World Jewish Congress. With it, the Jewish communities from all over the world, together, are changing directions in the ways to bond and relate with the Catholic communities in every town and city where they both live. 

“We want to study together! We want more cooperation projects! We want future generations to grow on the basis of these values!” Kishrenu seeks opening and friendship, with the hope that our shared values will gradually become part of the traditions and the daily life of every Jew and Christian, and thus become the foundation of coexistence. 

It is not by chance that this event has taken place now for the first time ever. The current Pope prioritizes fraternity, works actively for peace, and is Latin American. The climate of interreligious harmony that we habitually perceive in Latin America -and we build with devotion and conviction every day- is unfortunately an exception, compared with the events going on in the rest of the world. With this act however, we succeeded in turning global what we have been doing for decades in our region. It started when Francis was Bishop Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires and we celebrated together the Jewish and Catholic festivities, and it has continued until last month, when we shook hands in the Apostolic Palace, as if time had not gone by. 

 “Kishrenu will solidify the strong bonds between our two peoples at the same time, it will serve as a guide for all people—of all religions to live in peace” stated Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, in his opening address before Francis, which closed with “May God bless the Argentine national team” precisely when Messi scored his first goal.  

The symbolism of last month´s encounter has the potential to inspire peace, fraternity and friendship in believers and non-believers alike. However, and we already said this, no one can know in situ which events will go down in history. In 1965, Nostra Aetate, the declaration of the Second Vatican Council, laid the foundations for a new dialogue between the Catholic Church and other creeds; and beyond the words written on paper, it was thanks to the leaders who started the way to fraternity that that document became a milestone in history, 

Today the foundations are laid. Kishrenu is the Jewish response to Nostra Aetate, a process capable of introducing a new chapter in the Jewish-Christian relationship. We, leaders of the global Jewish communities, are responsible for turning it into a reality. Not for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren, being sure that the barriers that have been in place for centuries can be knocked down thanks to the magic of fraternity. 

The piece was originally published in Infobae