Rabbi of Rome criticizes Pope Francis’ speech in general audience

Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, joined Israel’s Jewish leaders and today criticized Pope Francis’ speech citing St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians during two general audiences at the Vatican.

“The problem is in the language that affects the way certain messages that have a sacred foundation in religion are conveyed to a general audience. Just as these ancient messages were the basis of hostile views in which Judaism is presented as an outdated, formalist religion , legalistic, without moral principles in everyday practice, so all these messages if they are presented in a simplified way, without making the necessary distinctions, they become a vehicle of hostility,” Di Segni told ANSA in commenting on the controversy.

According to the rabbi, what the leaders of the religion want is for “attention to be paid to language, without relinquishing any of the fundamentals”, since “we cannot ask for this, but simply that attention be paid to how the posts”.

Asked by ANSA whether he wanted public clarification from the Catholic authorities, Di Segni changed the subject and said that “he hopes that in the future some issues will have some sensitivity.”

In addition to talking about the case during an event in Rome, the chief rabbi also published an article in the newspaper “La Repubblica” in which he criticizes the Pope’s speech. “Two-thousand-year discussions matter because they can be the object of predication to the general public, opening up problematic scenarios […] because they again propose simplistic terms to old contrapositions, which carries the risk of confirming hostile stereotypes”.

The controversy broke out in late August after the chairman of Israel’s Grand Rabbinate Commission for Dialogue, Rabbi Rasson Arousi, sent a letter to the Vatican, specifically to Cardinal Kurk Koch, who heads the Council for the Union of the Christians and the Commission on Religious Relations with Judaism, saying they were “concerned” and “distressed” by the reading of the epistle during a general audience.

For Arousi, as echoed by the Catholic website “Il Sismografo”, the church leader’s speech implied that the “Jewish law is obsolete”.

Officially, the Holy See has not commented on the case. But, at the general audience this Wednesday (1st), the Pontiff gave a kind of indirect approach by addressing the second part of the same Letter from St. Paul to the Galatians.

Saying that he would continue with the explanation, Francisco stated that what he comments “is not something new, something of mine” and that “we are studying what São Paulo said in a very serious conflict with the Galatians”.

“This is simply a catechesis on the word of God, expressed in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. It is not just anything.

Always keep this in mind,” he added.