Festivals/Seasons & Holy Days

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Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) & Abraham Skorka

On Heaven and Earth

ISBN: 978 1 4729 0381 5

Bloomsbury, 2013, 236 pp. £14.99

This book consists of transcripts of conversations between a Jew and a Christian. The Jew is a distinguished Rabbi in Latin America; his name is Abraham Skorka. The Christian is the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who is now Pope Francis. They are personal friends, and they found a remarkable convergence of views; they almost always came to a common mind.

Their conversations cover a vast number of subjects, including belief in God, prayer, family life, education, science and political issues. They both make frequent reference to Biblical texts, and clearly the Rabbi has a sympathetic knowledge of the New Testament.

There is a chapter on the controversial subject of the Holocaust, raising the issue of whether Pope Pius XII and the Roman Catholic Church did enough to bring pressure on the Nazis while Jews were being massacred. Both the Rabbi and the Archbishop call for the opening of the Vatican archives which are relevant to this terrible situation. (We may hope that this will soon happen, since that Archbishop is now Pope.)

The chapter on the Arab-Israeli problem will be of special interest to those who pray and long for the peace of Jerusalem. The Rabbi and the Archbishop agree that both Jews and Arabs must share the blame for the on-going conflict. We may note that it was the Rabbi who said that there must be the creation of a Palestinian State as a positive way forward.

This book will be of great value to all who wish to explore the various issues under review. It is easy to read, and it stimulates further thought. It also provides a useful guide to the thinking of the present Pope.

Martin SSF

(Martin died in May 2014)