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Pope Francis Prays at Rome's Great Synagogue

  • VOA News

Pope Francis, left, flanked by Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, listens to a chorus at the end of his visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, Jan. 17, 2016. It was his first visit to a synagogue as pope.

Pope Francis, left, flanked by Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, listens to a chorus at the end of his visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, Jan. 17, 2016. It was his first visit to a synagogue as pope.

Pope Francis prayed at Rome's Great Synagogue Sunday, making his first visit as pontiff to a Jewish house of worship and condemning all violence carried out in the name of religion.

"Conflicts, wars, violence, and injustices open deep wounds in humanity that call on us to strengthen our commitment to peace and justice," Francis said. "Neither violence nor death will ever have the last word before God because he is love and life."

Francis also paid an emotional homage to all Holocaust survivors present at Sunday's service.

"Their suffering, their anguish, their tears shall never be forgotten."

Francis was following the path already laid by his predecessors - Popes John Paul and Benedict - in visiting the Great Synagogue - part of the Vatican's continuous efforts to improve ties between Jews and Catholics.

It began in earnest in 1965 when the Vatican formally pronounced that Jews are not responsible the death of Christ. It also called for greater inter-faith dialogue, leading up the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel in 1993.

While some Jews insist the Vatican did not speak out forcefully enough and did little to prevent the Nazi-orchestrated Holocaust, scholars say vigorous behind-the-scenes efforts by wartime Pope Pius XII saved thousands of Jewish lives.

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