March 14, 2013

Jewish friend of Pope Francis: “[He] stood out for his closeness to minorities”


“He wore a normal jacket and used public transportation, but at the same time, he is a very cultured man”

“I am moved,” said Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, an Argentine Jew and longtime personal friend of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis I.
Temembaum, a pioneer of interreligious dialogue amongst Christians, Muslims and Jews since the 1960s, tells Aleteia, “I am very satisfied, because I believe that we will see, in terms of spirituality, a repetition of the what John XXIII did at the service of the Church and of the world.”

“It is a cause for hope. I am certain that he will find the way to dialogue with the Islamic faithful, as well,” he added.
“I have known him well since he was Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires. He defended a memorial that was erected for the first time in a cathedral, dedicated to the victims of the Shoah by the Mutual Israli-Argentine Association” (“AMIA” in Spanish).

“Bergoglio stood out for his closeness to minorities,” adds Tenembaum. “He preserved a very special monument. He would personally go to the market to buy flowers to lay at the tomb of his predecessor, Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, which was in front of the memorial.”

“He is a very simple, humble and spiritual man. He participated like no other with everyone in interreligious encounters. He has many rabbi friends, and has published books together with rabbis. He went to many synagogues. I don’t say it because I am Jewish, but because he is a man with a profound respect for all people, who have a right to be distinct, so long as they are people of integrity.”

“When he came to Buenos Aires as an Auxiliary Bishop in 1992, I said to him, ‘Look, Jorge – we respect the life of anyone who respects everyone in return.’ Not only did he empathize with us; he demonstrated it in his life.”

“It is truly moving that the Cardinals have chosen a true man of the people to be Pope. He wore a normal jacket and used public transportation, but at the same time, he is a very cultured man,” said Tenembaum.

Translated by Alberto Gonzalez