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HOLYLAND-ROSEN May-1-2009 (420 words) xxxi

Pope's trip certain to advance Catholic-Jewish ties, rabbi says

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A leading Jewish rabbi said Pope Benedict XVI's Holy Land visit was certain to consolidate the historic reconciliation process between Catholics and Jews.

The pope's May 8-15 trip, which includes five days in Jerusalem, will demonstrate the Vatican's respect for the state of Israel as part of Jewish identity, said Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Rabbi Rosen made the comments in an article in the April 29 English-language edition of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"In visiting Israel and demonstrating the Holy See's respect for the Jewish state, reinforcing the impact of the pioneering visit of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI will undoubtedly further advance the historical process of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation," Rabbi Rosen wrote.

"Pope Benedict XVI will be walking in the footsteps of his great predecessor both literally and figuratively. Pope John Paul II -- very much the hero of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation in our times -- understood full well that the visit of a pope to Israel has a special significance of its own," he said.

Rabbi Rosen said that even if the visit of Pope John Paul in 2000 was described as a pilgrimage "it was still a state visit with all the relevant trappings" and recognized the essential relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Pope Benedict, too, will be demonstrating more than good will to the 6 million Jews who reside in the Holy Land today, he said.

The rabbi said a papal visit can give wider expression to some of the principles and values familiar to dialogue experts.

"Most Israeli Jews and especially the more traditional and observant among them have never met a modern Christian," he said. But when they saw Pope John Paul visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Western Wall and heard what he had to say, they realized the head of the Catholic Church was a "sincere friend," he said.

Pope Benedict will visit the Holocaust memorial and pray at the Western Wall, and will meet with the two chief rabbis of Jerusalem during his visit.

Rabbi Rosen also noted that papal visits can give rise to concrete initiatives.

During his visit in 2000, Pope John Paul proposed establishing a new dialogue commission between the Vatican and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. That commission's work over the last eight years has led to a relationship of genuine appreciation and friendship, and has affected the attitudes of people inside Israel, Rabbi Rosen said.

END


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