Israel Envoy: Synagogue Visit Brought Nice Surprise

And Adds to Fight Against Anti-Semitism

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By Jesús Colina



ROME, JAN. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Israel's ambassador to the Holy See says Benedict XVI's visit to the Synagogue of Rome was not only a help in the fight against anti-Semitism, but also brought a pleasant surprise.

Mordechay Lewy told ZENIT that something he won't forget about Sunday's visit was the reaction in the media.

"The press was blowing up an atmosphere of crisis, before the visit, and the media were very much disappointed that there was no crisis afterwards," he said, affirming this was a nice surprise.

The Holy Father visited both the synagogue and the Jewish Museum on Sunday evening, giving an address focused on what does and can unite Jews and Christians. It was the third time as Pontiff that he has visited a synagogue.

The Israeli envoy affirmed that with the visit, the Pontiff offers a contribution to the fight against anti-Semitism.

"I think it is very helpful," he said, "because the Holy Father has repeated and extended the meaning of 'Nostra Aetate,'" the Second Vatican Council's declaration on interreligious dialogue, and particularly dialogue with Judaism.

Lewy stated that Benedict XVI is going "to the essential of this dialogue."

He also opined that the visit has a positive impact on Israel-Vatican relations, which "are of two kinds: There is a spiritual level, and a politic level. We would want to have the both of them in good shape, and both of them are advancing in the right direction."

Lewy noted how the members of the Mixed Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See were present during Sunday's event. Their meeting to dialogue on Catholic and Jewish teaching on creation and the environment began today.

The Israeli envoy went on to characterize the political relationship of the Vatican and Israel as "very good."

"We are promoting [relations] on the level of culture, and in the level of negotiations, which are proceeding well," he said.

As far as the reaction in Israel to the Pope's visit, Lewy said it is too early to tell: "In Israel we have to get along with the idea that we keep a dialogue with the Catholic Church as intense as it can be, but some differences will remain, and we will have to live with it. And this is a process of learning, to my mind."