Jay Phillips Center Programs

Pope Francis and the Jewish People: From Catholic-Jewish Relations in Argentina to Catholic-Jewish Relations around the World


Mordechai Levin

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Rabbi Mordechai Levin, who met fellow Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio before he became Pope Francis, presented the lecture "Pope Francis and the Jewish People: From Catholic-Jewish Relations in Argentina to Catholic-Jewish Relations around the World" at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in the Founders Room (Quadrangle Building 170) at Saint John's University.

The lecture, which was free and open to the public, was sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning in collaboration with the College of Saint Benedict Campus Ministry and Saint John's University Campus Ministry.

"During his tenure as head of the Argentina Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio promoted interfaith dialogue," Levin said. "He attended religious services at several synagogues, met with Jewish organizations and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the Jewish community in Argentina."

Levin reviewed this relationship in the context of the history of Catholic-Jewish relations in Argentina and what it suggests about the future of Catholic-Jewish relations around the world. He also spoke about the book "On Heaven and Earth" (Image, 2013), which his long-time friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka co-authored with Pope Francis.

When he met on several occasions with the future Pope Francis, Levin was senior rabbi at one of the most prominent synagogues, Lamroth Hakol, in Buenos Aires. He later immigrated to the United States and became senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in Omaha, Neb., and is now the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Munster, Ind.

Levin received his rabbinic ordination from the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, and in 2010 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

A past president and a founder of the Latin American region of the Rabbinical Assembly, Levin was part of the delegation during the Latin American Jewish/Catholic Consultation co-sponsored by the Latin American Council of Bishops and the Latin American Jewish Congress.

Levin has remained actively involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue in the United States, frequently giving lectures to church, college and high school groups.

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