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October 7, 2016  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Argentinian rabbi to deliver message of unity between Jews and Catholics

Rabbi Abraham Skorka with Pope Francis at the Vatican Rabbi Abraham Skorka with Pope Francis at the Vatican Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio met at a Mass in Argentina in 1995. They bonded over their love of soccer, despite supporting rival soccer teams. Since then, the rabbi and the man who would become Pope Francis have fostered a relationship that bridges athletic rivalries and religions.

Rabbi Skorka will be coming to the Tampa Bay area to speak about improving relationships within the Jewish and Catholic faiths during a free day-long program at St. Leo University in Pasco County on Tuesday, Nov. 1. He will also appear at a Sarasota synagogue on Wednesday, Nov. 4 where he will receive an award for his promotion of better interfaith relations.

His passion for the subject was born out of his relationship with the pope and their efforts to strengthen ties between their religions and learn about one another. The two co-hosted 30 episodes of an Argentinian television show, Bible: A Valid Dialogue, which won the Argentinian version of an Emmy. They also co-authored a book, On Heaven and Earth, where they discuss timely social issues that face the world at large and how they can confer on different ideas through understanding.

“You have two of the oldest faith communities in the world with Catholics and Jews,” said St. Leo’s Director for the Center of Catholic Jewish Studies, Dr. Matthew Tapie. “You also have a history of mutual suspicion and unfortunate failed relationships, hostility even. Since the 1960s, the relationship has turned around and has begun to heal. The Catholic-Jewish relationship can be a model for reconciliation between groups.”

Rabbi Skorka was initially encouraged to seek out interfaith interactions by his senior rabbi at Congregation Lamroth Hakol in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His rabbi was also close with a Catholic priest and when that priest came to speak, he told congregants that “to love the other, you must know the other,” a sentiment that stuck with Rabbi Skorka and inspired his commitment to promoting dialogue with the Catholic and Muslim beliefs.

He is currently the rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary and spiritual leader of Benei Tikvah synagogue, both in Buenos Aires.

This will be Rabbi Skorka’s first visit to Florida and he has chosen St. Leo University to be the first stop on his North American tour. His intention is to visit other Catholic universities that have been focused on improving ties with Jewish communities, said Tapie. The university is expecting to have a full house, as Rabbi Skorka tends to draw large crowds.

Saint Leo University, 33701 State Road 52, St Leo, will host the event Nov. 1, beginning at 10 a.m. with a Mass and luncheon at 11:30 a.m.

Rabbi Skorka will speak at 12:30 p.m. on “My Interreligious Journey with Pope Francis” and at 6:30 p.m. on “Why Interreligious Dialogue Matters.”

There will also be two panel discussions with Rabbi Skorka including a 2:30 p.m. session featuring Jewish and Catholic leaders. Rabbi Gary Klein of Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor will be part of that panel.

The following day, Wednesday, Nov. 2, Rabbi Skorka will be joining Dr. Susannah Heschel, daughter of the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel, at Temple Emanu-El, 151 McIntosh Road, Sarasota, to discuss her father’s influence on the rabbi. Heschel, an influential 20th century Jewish theologian and philosopher, focused the majority of his career on civil rights and the improvements in Jewish-Christian dialogue.

During the 7 p.m. program, Rabbi Skorka will receive the 13th Eternal Light Award, given by the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies to individuals who have made a powerful impact on the promotion of Jewish Catholic discourse.

Both events are open to the community at no charge. To RSVP for either, call (352) 588-8401 or email

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