L’Chaim to the Pope

Pope Francis has showed no hesitation to express his support for Israel. He told an Israeli journalist that, “Anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.” Perhaps the pontiff’s Zionism is motivated by his wish to bring peace to the Middle East.

Nevertheless, the Pope’s recent visit to the United States sparked some thought within the Jewish community. Although many Jewish people in the Central Park area on Saturday were just unintentionally caught in the crowds, some did go to see the Pope to witness a historical moment rather than a religious one. But regardless of the reason, a random sampling of Jewish people found that some have a positive view of the leader of the Catholic Church.

Michael Oppenheim of Florida praised the Pope for being more liberal. “I think this Pope is awesome. He’s bringing a lot of positivity and modernity and increased social understanding to the role which I really like. He is more socially liberal and understanding than the Church has been in the past.”

Similarly, Darcy Forman, a Reform Jew from Monterrey, California, said, “I really appreciate his being outspoken about the poor, climate change, and the underserved people of the world. He also comes off like he would be accepting of all religions. I think he understands that Catholics were children of Abraham.”

After the Pope’s stay in New York, he headed to Philadelphia. In an unannounced part of his schedule on Sunday, Pope Francis stopped to bless a sculpture at St. Joseph’s University that was commissioned by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations. By his side was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a friend of the Pope from Buenos Aires. Together, the Rabbi and the Pope honored the art for symbolizing a rejection to anti-Semitism.

In some ways, Jews and Catholics aren’t that different from one another. Robin Schatel of New Jersey believes, “The Catholic Church is a conservative, religious body. The Orthodox are also very conservative in their beliefs. They aren’t that different if it’s really about taking care of the world and its people.” So what if the Pope was Jewish? “He’d be eating with people and not just waving at them!” said Schatel.

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