Leaders of the Schechter Institutes and members of an interreligious dialogue course met with the Latin Patriarch His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the most senior Roman Catholic official in the Middle East, at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem on April 12, 2021.
The meeting was an opportunity for members of the Jewish community and Christian participants in the course to meet the new Latin patriarch, who was appointed by Pope Francis in October, 2020.
Among those attending the meeting was Professor Doron Bar, president of The Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies. Bar presented Pizzaballa with a copy of his book on the recent history of the Western Wall.
“The history of Jerusalem is not only Jewish history,” Bar said. “Christians, Muslims and Jews are all part of the mixture and complicated history of Jerusalem and it is very important that we meet and speak with each other.”
As part of Schechter Institutes commitment to pluralism, Bar said he would like to open a special program for Jews and Christian Arabs to study together.
The Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem oversees Catholic communities in Israel – about 25,000 Arabs and an estimated 80,000 foreign workers – as well as Catholics living in the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Cypress.
Pizzaballa, 56, is a former Franciscan friar who speaks fluent Hebrew and has lived in Israel since 1990. He is the former pastor for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel and a member of a commission for relations with Judaism.
Pizzaballa said that most of Israeli society doesn’t know anything about the Christian faith. “They are not against us,” he said. “They simply ignore us. What is important is that we work in the media and in the schools to create these encounters. Otherwise, it is a lesson you learn but forget.”
The New Initiatives in Interreligious Dialogue course is taught by Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish and includes weekly meetings with a diverse group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders across Israel.