Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rabbi Cohen Addresses Catholic Synod

Catholic Synod Features Jewish Rabbi, Scripture Readings
By John P. Connolly, The Bulletin

For the first time in history, a Jewish rabbi addressed a synod, a gathering of Roman Catholic bishops.

The synod, which is being held in Rome, was called to discuss Scripture and its importance to Catholicism. Shear-Yashuv Cohen, a chief rabbi in the Israeli city of Haifa, became the first Jew to address a synod, speaking of the relevance of the Bible for Judaism. Rabbi Cohen was selected to address the synod by Pope Benedict XVI.

"I deeply feel that standing here before you is very meaningful," Rabbi Cohen told the 253 bishops at the synod. "It brings with it a signal of hope and a message of love, co-existence and peace for our generation, and for generations to come."

In his speech, Rabbi Cohen denounced "the terrible and vicious words" spoken by "the president of a certain state in the Middle East" at the U.N. General Assembly last month. He was most likely referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the state of Israel.

Rabbi Cohen spoke of the "long, hard and painful history" of Jewish-Catholic relations, calling it "a history of blood and tears."

Rabbi Cohen's address was only one feature of a synod that will last most of October. Various efforts to increase appreciation of the Bible are being discussed, and a few are being tried. This week, a marathon-style reading of the Bible began with Pope Benedict XVI reading the book of Genesis. Various other Church leaders and Italian politicians will take part in the weeklong scripture reading, reciting portions of the Bible live on Italian television. Catholics, Protestants and Jews will all take part in the reading.

John P. Connolly can be reached at

©The Evening Bulletin 2008

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