Rabbi hails pope's synagogue visit

'Sign of peace in the face of extremismo' says Di Segni

(ANSA) - Rome, January 8 - Pope Francis' visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome on January 17 speaks to peace in the face of extremism, Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni told ANSA in an interview Friday. The pontiff's visit not only confirms the "friendship" between the two faiths but is also a message of "peace in contrast to the spread of extremism and violence in the name of religion," Di Segni said. "We are upset and concerned over the spread of extremism," he said.
    "Differences of faith must not be a motive for hostility, violence and hatred, but on the contrary a reason to live together and work for peace," the chief rabbi said.
    "January 17 will certainly not be a routine event," he added.
    Francis will be the third pontiff to visit the Great Synagogue after John Paul II in 1986 and Benedict XVI in 2010.
    "Every pope is different," said Di Segni, who hosted Benedict on his visit.
    "Benedict is a scholar first of all, and he analyzed the doctrinal aspects in relation to Judaism. Francis is a pastoral pope," the rabbi said. "As archbishop of Buenos Aires and then as pope, he has given signs of friendship towards the Jewish people and its religious tradition".
    The Jewish community of Rome goes back to the 2nd century BC, and the Great Synagogue was completed in 1904.