TORONTO (JTA) – A Toronto rabbi and his wife received a blessing from the pope as a wedding anniversary gift.
To mark their 70th year together, Rabbi Erwin Schild and his wife, Laura, were presented with a handwritten scroll stamped with the papal seal and a photo of Pope Francis.
The couple was presented with the honour by Cardinal Thomas Collins, archbishop of Toronto, at Adath Israel Congregation, where Schild served as spiritual leader from 1947 to 1989.
The papal blessing, or benediction papalis, is given to mark important events such as baptisms, birthdays, weddings or anniversaries in the lives of Roman Catholics. It is very rarely bestowed on non-Christians, the Toronto Star reported.
“They have reached out to be bridge builders, to show the way forward,” Collins told those gathered at a special interfaith event at Adath Israel.
Collins noted that Schild, who turns 96 on March 9, has long been an interfaith leader who promoted positive relations between Christians and Jews.
Schild, who was born in Germany and survived the Dachau concentration camp, helped build the Conservative synagogue’s membership to its current 1,800 families.
In his remarks, Schild called the papal blessing “an astounding gift” that requires “an exceptional degree of appreciation.”