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Their friendship-based interfaith dialogue will be the theme of an October 29 talk Skorka will give at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York called “Pope Francis and the Jews.” In his presentation, Skorka will discuss how the newly elected Pontiff relates to the Chosen people.
According to Skorka, he does. A lot. “In the few months that he is already Pope we heard, we saw, we witnessed very strong declarations against anti-Semitism,” said Skorka. “He is also stressing the deep relationship between Judaism and Christianity.”
Privately, Skorka added, the two are trying to come up with a theological definition of what a Christian means to a Jew — and vice versa — as well as what the state of Israel means to Catholics, all from a spiritual point of view.
Unbeknown to a public hungry for information about the new Pope’s worldview from the moment of his election by fellow Cardinals, many of Francis’ views were out there even before white smoke billowed up from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, announcing they had chosen. In 2010, Bergoglio and Skorka co-authored the book, “On Heaven and Earth,” a collection of the two clerics’ discussions over the years on hot-button issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to fundamentalism, to abortion and gay marriage to the Vatican’s role in the preventing the Holocaust.
The last topic, said Skorka, is an issue that weighs heavily on the Pope’s mind. In “On Heaven and Earth” Francis agrees wholeheartedly with Skorka’s suggestion that Pope Pius XII’s personal archives — often referred to as the Vatican’s Secret Archives — be fully opened so that historians can objectively determine if Pius and the Church could have done more to save Europe’s Jews.
“What you say about the archives relating to the Shoah seems perfect to me,” Bergoglio says in the book. “They should open them and clarify everything.”
Since ascending to the papacy, Francis has hinted of his continued wish for transparency on Pius XII, but no concrete actions have yet followed. Skorka is unfazed. “Pope Francis is a coherent person,” he said. “Everything he says, he does.”
In fact, Skorka added, Francis reiterated his convictions during their last conversation, only a couple of weeks ago. “He told me, we have to search them,” said Skorka. “But,” the Pope added, “when we analyze Pope Pius XII’s behavior, we must also analyze the behavior of the occidental leaders who forsook the Jewish people.”