Pope joins rabbis, scholars at interreligious confab in Italy

(JTA) – Pope Francis participated in the concluding events of a three-day interreligious conference in Italy that drew more than 450 Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and other religious leaders from around the world.

The pope flew by helicopter to Assisi, in central Italy, on Tuesday for the final day of “Thirst for Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue,” a conference organized by the St. Egidio community, a Catholic charitable organization dealing with social and interfaith issues.

The conference marked the 30th anniversary of the first such interfaith “World Day of Prayer for Peace” held in Assisi under the auspices of Pope John Paul II. Assisi was the home of St. Francis, in whose honor the current pope chose his official name.

Jewish representatives attending this year’s meeting included Rabbi David Rosen, international interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee; Rabbi Isak Haleve, chief rabbi of Turkey; Oded Wiener, former general director of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Jakob Finci, president of the Jewish community in Bosnia-Herzegovina; Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and former chief rabbi of Israel; and the pope’s close friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Marshall T. Meyer Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Argentina; as well as other rabbis and scholars from several countries.

The dozens of conference sessions included discussions on Jewish-Christian dialogue; Holocaust remembrance; and inter-religious coexistence in Israel, as well as on broader topics touching on the role and response of religion to a wide variety of issues ranging from refugees, terrorism, war, climate change, global poverty and hunger, and propaganda.

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