Dialogue in Sao Paulo, Brazil

After two thousand troubled years, the last fifty years were a time of rapprochement between Christians and Jews. Today we cultivate a relationship of friendship and respect, said Rabbi Michel Schlesinger. Hatred and contempt must be overcome. The work continues, but we have made great progress, Sao Paulo Cardinal Dom Odilo Scherer added.

On the eve of the arrival of Pope Francis in Brazil, the rabbi and the Cardinal met in a public dialogue on Wednesday, July 10, in Sao Paolo, remembering the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope John XXIII, when the process of rapprochement between Jews and Catholics began, and exploring new approaches, under the new pontificate, to intensify this process between the two communities.

What will change in the Church, with Pope Francis? Dom Odilo said: First of all, a change in personal style. In management, the changes will be gradual. Schlesinger reminded the audience of the great relationship of then Cardinal Bergoglio with the Argentine Jewish community. As Cardinal Scherer was among the ‘papabili’, Schlesinger said, he had hoped a long time Dom Odilo would be chosen - "not changing your mobile number".

"In our dialogue with the Jews, there are many reasons for celebration, but also challenges," said Dom Odilo. "We have a common spiritual heritage and common concerns such as peace and human rights. John Paul II embraced the cause of dialogue in an unprecedented way, and Benedict XVI followed in his footsteps," he said. “The dialogue is very good on the summit level, but within communities, resistance must be overcome. It is the difference between us that enables the dialogue," said Dom Odilo. "John Paul II invited us to take up an attitude he called ‘purification of memory’: the humility to acknowledge mistakes, sins, to ask forgiveness and to start new ways."

The moderator of the debate, Dan Stulbach, asked both about the wave of protests in Brazil. "It was a great surprise," said Dom Odilo. "Young people have shown that they are interested in politics. I see it as something very positive, an awakening of political consciousness." "The Hebrew Bible is full of demonstrations during which the Jewish people were headed by their leaders. In general, Jewish tradition approves demonstrations aiming at a better world," Rabbi Schlesinger said.

Stulbach asked which banner the Rabbi and the Cardinal would carry during the demonstrations. Dom Odilo: "I do not know if I would carry a banner, but I identify with words against corruption, against big spending on stadiums and for better health and education." Schlesinger: "Against any kind of fanaticism, that is the root of many evils. Moderation is the only way."