Best Friends: The Rabbi & The Pope

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Argentine Rabbi who co-wrote “On Heaven & Earth” with his close friend Pope Francis. THIS IS WITHOUT DOUBT THE MUST-READ ITEM OF THE WEEK!
by ANT KATZ | Nov 13, 2013

The following story includes content from a CNN BLOG written by Mick Krever. 

One of Pope Francis’ dearest personal friends is the prominent Argentine Rabbi Abahram Skorka with whom he co-wrote the book: “On Heaven and Earth.” Pope Francis and Rabbi Abahram Skorka have known one-another for 15 years, since he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

Rabbi Skorka shares a concise description of what makes Francis’ papacy different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger – and Skorka may be the most one person on the planet to have such insight.


Pope Francis “lives with his mind in heaven and with his feet on Earth,” Rabbi Skorka told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last Wednesday. “And Ratzinger lived totally in heaven.”

Abraham Skorka, a prominent Argentine Rabbi, has had frank and open conversations with Pope Francis since he was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. Those discussions are the topic of a book written by both, “On Heaven and Earth.”

It all started over The Beautiful Game

Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio formed their friendship, the Rabbi said, over that most beloved of Argentine traditions: soccer.
9g-Rabbi & Pope hug“The beginning was through jokes,” Rabbi Skorka said. “But behind the jokes … [I] understood then that he sent me a message: ‘I open my heart.’”

PIC RIGHT: Rabbi & Pope (then a Cardinal) hug at the 2010 LAUNCH of the English version of the book

Since then, their friendship has been one of not only jokes, but deep theological thought. Pope Francis has proved, from his first day as the Bishop of Rome, that his will be a different papacy: One that emphasizes humility and deep analysis, not pomp or dogma.

And from their 15-year-long relationship, Rabbi Skorka drew evidence of just how true that was.

In the book, the two also discuss Argentina’s terrible years under military dictatorship, when the so-called “Dirty War” flourished.

Cardinal Bergoglio compared the Argentine Catholic Church to the Chilean Church, which observers say stood up more firmly to its dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

Revealing insights into where Papacy may be headed

On the issue of priestly celibacy, Cardinal Bergolgio in the book says, "It is an issue of discipline, not faith."

9F-POPE BOOK“He told me, look, I receive this tradition, but I know this is not a dogma,” Rabbi Skorka told Amanpour. “This is just a tradition and maybe that in the future it could be changed.”

PIC LEFT: The 2010 LAUNCH of the English version of the book took the mesage of the co-authors global

“Don't forget that he has had history of 2,000 years behind him,” he said. But “he has a very open mind in order to analyse all the things. For him, there is not a closed thing – even homosexuality, even abortion – to analyse.”

Their friendship sits on the shoulders of interfaith relations that have often been treated with deep scepticism, piqued most notably during World War II, and Jews’ questioning of whether Pope Pius XII could have done more to stem the atrocity.

Secret Vatican records of Nazi era to be opened?

 In the book, then as a Cardinal, Bergoglio seemed to stand behind those who want to open up the Vatican archives. Rabbi Skorka discusses this possibility with Amanpour in the interview.

“Let them be opened and let everything be cleared up,” Bergoglio said. “If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say, ‘We have erred.’ We don’t need to be scared of this – the truth as to be the goal.”

Rabbi Skorka said that Francis will surely “do what he said – that it has to be done.”

“It’s a [critique of] the Argentinian church,” Rabbi Skorka said. “Catholic priests were present in the places where people were tortured. And he criticized a lot this kind of priest.” 

Some have questioned Pope Francis’ own role during the war, and Rabbi Skorka broached the topic with his friend.



“He has a very critical point of view regarding his own attitude during that period, asking himself, ‘Did I do the utmost?’”

“But what we know now, very clear, that he hoped a lot of people – he saved a lot of people.”

On the role of women in the Church…

 Rabbi Skorka said he did not know what the Pope would change in the Church “in a pragmatic way,” for example about the role of women.

“But what I am really sure is that he will analyze one and thousand times what is possible to be changed. He will open the debate.”

It is undeniable, though, that the Pope has put forward a new face for the Catholic Church.

Since he ascended to the papacy, Rabbi Skorka said, Cardinal Bergoglio “laughs more.”

“He used to smile, but now very much often,” he said. “He laughs with a big laugh. And why? Because he knows that he must transmit – and it's coming out from his heart – because he knows that he must transmit an image of hope, of hope through his laugh.”


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