Rabbi Abraham Skorka's Dialogue With Future Pope Francis Started With Soccer

Pontiff-to-Be Forged Close Bond With Argentine Cleric

Pope’s Pal: Rabbi Abraham Skorka and the future Pope Francis forged a friendship in Argentina 15 years ago. They’ve never looked back, and now their bond could pave the way to a historic rapprochement between their two faiths.
youtube
Pope’s Pal: Rabbi Abraham Skorka and the future Pope Francis forged a friendship in Argentina 15 years ago. They’ve never looked back, and now their bond could pave the way to a historic rapprochement between their two faiths.

By Anne Cohen

Published October 29, 2013, issue of November 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A rabbi and a priest walk into an independence day celebration….

That, literally, is how one the most high-profile interfaith friendships in the world today started. More specifically, the bond that Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina cemented with the man who would become Pope Francis began as so many male friendships do: over sports.

It was in the late 1990s, that Skorka, rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano Marshall T. Meyer in Buenos Aires, was invited to attend the Te Deum, celebrated by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires on the anniversary of Argentina’s May Revolution. Skorka went as a representative of the Jewish community. When Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now known as Pope Francis — asked the faith leaders present about their favorite soccer teams to lighten the mood, Skorka replied honestly, “My team is River Plate” — one of the more hopeless athletic causes in Argentina.

“Their fans are called ‘chickens,’” Skorka related during an October 28 interview with the Forward while on a visit to New York. As each cleric rose to shake hands with the archbishop at the ceremony’s conclusion, Bergoglio, a San Lorenzo fan, looked straight at the rabbi when he congratulated the Catholic leader on his speech. “I guess this year,” the future pope kidded him, “we are going to eat chicken soup.”

That was the moment Skorka realized he was looking at someone special. “Behind this joke,” he recalled, “I realized that Bergoglio was saying, ‘The door is open.’ And so that was the beginning.”

More than a decade later, Skorka finds himself in the position of offering his fellow Jews a lens through which to understand the new leader of the Catholic faith. His own close-up view has continued since Bergoglio’s ascension to the Holy See last March. This spring, Skorka will even join Pope Francis on his inaugural papal trip to Israel.

“As pilgrims to Israel, we are dreaming of certain moments,” Skorka related. Among the things he and Pope Francis look forward to is “to pray together in front of the Kotel,” he said, referring to the remnant of the ancient Temple’s Western Wall, a Jewish holy site. Skorka plans also to accompany the Pope to Bethlehem, to show respect for the role of Christian history in the Holy Land.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.