In the few months since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires became the head of the Roman Catholic Church he has changed the atmospherics of the Vatican more profoundly — and most observers would emphatically say for the better — than anyone since Pope John XXIII more than 50 years ago.
Rome — When Pope Francis was first introduced to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, it was immediately obvious that he was a man of great humility who had not expected he would be staying in Vatican City after the papal conclave. The warm, unassuming and unscripted pope described in the media is the same person we met for his first audience with Jewish leaders. Pope Francis, who has an extensive background in Catholic-Jewish relations, put his visitors at ease with his familiarity.
During the current era of warming Jewish-Catholic relations, initiated in 1978 by the late Pope John Paul II and continued by the recently retired Benedict XVI, some dividing points between the Jewish and Catholic communities surfaced. Among them were the resurrected Latin Mass that calls for the conversion of the Jews, and the lifting of a Holocaust-denying priest’s excommunication.