During his 43 years as a human rights activist, Rabbi Arthur Schneier has met three popes in the Vatican.
Next week the current head of the Catholic Church will pay the rabbi a return visit.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side on the afternoon of Friday, April 18, during the pontiff's first trip to the United States. Only two popes are known to have previously set foot in a synagogue: Benedict XVI in Cologne in 2005, and his predecessor, John Paul II, in Rome in 1986.
The Catholic Church will continue to improve its relationship with the Jewish community, but interfaith ties under Pope Benedict XVI will probably not be as warm or as significant as under his predecessor, John Paul II.
That is the opinion of representatives of several prominent Jewish organizations following the election Tuesday of German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the 265th pope. The early favorite to succeed Polish native John Paul II, Benedict XVI is the second non-Italian cardinal to lead the church in four-and-a-half centuries.
Shortly after a little-known cardinal from Poland was elected spiritual head of the Catholic Church in 1978, Rabbi Arthur Schneier received a call from a network television correspondent asking for comment. The correspondent, who “equated Poles with anti-Semitism,” assumed that Rabbi Schneier, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Manhattan-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an ecumenical human rights organization, would comment negatively on the new pope, the rabbi recalls.
Last week, a rare manuscript of one of Maimonides’ major works returned from an exhibition in Germany to its home in the Vatican Library. According to the library’s procedures, two years must pass before one of its loaned artifacts is allowed outside again.
In September, the Maimonides manuscript, written by a scribe in the 15th century, will go on display in Jerusalem.
Judging by the statements and press releases issued on the letterheads of Jewish organizations following the death of Pope John Paul II, most of the Jewish community agreed that the pontiff made unprecedented contributions to Jewish-Catholic relations.
Jewish spokesmen cited the Vatican’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, the pope’s condemnation of anti-Semitism as a “sin against God” and his general sensitivity to Jewish concerns.