Interfaith leaders greet Archbishop Perez with warmth, hope

February 21, 2020


by Gina Christian


Archbishop Nelson Perez has been welcomed by several of Philadelphia’s interfaith leaders who attended his Feb. 18 Mass of installation.

“I’m glad that Archbishop Perez has already extended a warm hand to me,” said Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, the city’s director for faith-based and interfaith affairs.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka greets newly installed Archbishop Nelson Perez during a Feb. 18 Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. (Photo by Sarah Webb)

An adjunct professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, Rev. Washington-Leapheart said that she’s “excited to explore” potential partnership opportunities, especially since Philadelphia’s new shepherd “has already done some important work, particularly in terms of engagement with Latino communities and college students.”

Also in attendance was Elder Vai Sikahema of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose Philadelphia temple is located across the street from the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, as well as Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) of St. Joseph’s University.


Rabbi Skorka promotes interfaith dialogue on campus – The Hawk Newspaper

February 12, 2020
From The Hawk. Written by Eddie Daou ’22.


Skorka held a two part series on interfaith relations. [Photo: Mitchell Shields ’22/THE HAWK]

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Ph.D., visiting professor of theology, has fostered ongoing conversations about interfaith relationships through his close friendship with Pope Francis. Skorka has worked to promote a deeper understanding between Catholics and Jews at St. Joe’s through research and on-campus events.

Skorka served as the rector and professor of biblical and rabbinic literature at the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires, where he first met Pope Francis in 1997.

“The friendship developed because both of us felt that we have a mission to continue ahead with the dialogue that our ancestors began working on years ago,” Skorka said. “One recognized in the other a very good partner to do that.”

Skorka said his relationship with Pope Francis is not based on trying to convince the other of their personal beliefs, but to open up a dialogue between their faiths to help fix global issues and problems affecting members of both religions. (more…)

Local scholars say Jews, Catholics have chance for ‘profound friendship’

February 5, 2020
By Gina Christian • Posted February 5, 2020


Despite rising antisemitism throughout the world, Catholics and Jews are living in “a remarkable new age” in which they can both grow by understanding their differences more fully.

Pope Francis embraces Rabbi Abraham Skorka during a brief stop at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Sept. 27, 2015. Skorka, a longtime friend of the pope, said in a Jan. 27 presentation at the university that “a new hope has been born” for Jewish-Christian relations after centuries of persecution and misunderstanding. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

That’s according to Professor Philip Cunningham, co-director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) of St. Joseph’s University. Founded in 1967, the IJCR is the oldest university center of its kind in the U.S. created in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for increased interfaith dialogue.

On Jan. 27, the IJCR hosted the first of a two-part series on “Jewish Views of the Religious ‘Other.’” Some 80 attendees listened as IJCR visiting scholar Rabbi Abraham Skorka – a longtime collaborator and friend of Pope Francis – traced “the 2,000 years of shared history” between Jews and Christians, while reflecting on key theological developments in both faiths.


Auschwitz anniversary reminds that anti-Semitism still present

January 27, 2020

By Gina Christian

On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, scholars at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia are stressing that more needs to be done to end antisemitism — and to prevent the systematic murder of 6 million Jews from being forgotten.

(Related: Remembering the Holocaust is ‘a duty,’ Pope says)

“The story must be presented in its details, together with why it is important to remember it,” said Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a visiting academic at the university’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) and a close collaborator with fellow Argentinian native Pope Francis. Founded in 1967, the IJCR is the oldest university center of its kind in the U.S. created in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for increased interfaith dialogue. (more…)

Interfaith Expert to Discuss Jewish Perspectives of Other Faiths

January 23, 2020
SJU Office of Communications

Rabbi Abraham Skorka , a renowned scholar on interreligious dialogue and co-author with Pope Francis of On Heaven and Earth, will present a pair of discussions on Jewish views of other religions this spring. Skorka, a University professor and visiting scholar with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University, will begin the series by considering Jewish perspectives on Christianity on Monday, Jan. 27. A second event, focusing on Jewish views of Islam, is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Since joining Saint Joseph’s in the fall of 2018, Rabbi Skorka served for almost 20 years as the rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano Marshall T. Meyer in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During his time as rector, he hosted a series of televised discussions with the future Pope, then the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, on their views of each other’s faiths and how each applied to modern issues. The talks were later edited into On Heaven and Earth, which recently marked 10 years of publication. (more…)

L’Osservatore Romano: “A Hope of Peace”

December 22, 2019

By Abraham Skorka

[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, December 22, 2019, p. 7.]

Marc Chagall, “The Garden of Eden”

A look back at our human history confronts us, on the one hand, with many fabulous scientific and technical achievements and, on the other hand, with voracious self-destruction. The same genius that discovers and creates often seems unable to master its own harmful impulses.

The Book of Genesis describes how God blessed humanity to multiply and dominate the earth (1:28). But God went on to set a limit to remind human beings that they do not have absolute power over the created world. It was a very simple limit: to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Some Midrashic sages (Bereshit Rabbah 15:7) claimed that this fruit was a mere fig, while others proposed various other fruits. This diversity of opinion suggests that the narrative’s prohibition is more symbolic than literal. It is perhaps in the words of the serpent’s temptation that the deeper meaning of the prohibition is revealed. By eating that fruit, the serpent says, “you will be like gods, connoisseurs of good and evil” (3:5). The elimination of God’s presence from human reality, and substituting human beings who know good and evil for God, and are thus supposedly able to act without limit or restraint, is the temptation to which the archetypal human beings succumbed by transgressing the only rule that God had given. (more…)

Video: Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka: “Hanukkah, Christmas and the State of the World”

December 11, 2019

In November 2019, Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka (University Professor at Saint Joseph’s University) discussed the significance of the upcoming Hanukkah and Christmas seasons. They spoke of recent outbursts of prejudice and violence in many countries, including antisemitic attacks and hostility toward migrants, as incompatible with the vision of religious freedom and universal peace of the two holydays. Rabbi Skorka has written a short article about the discussion HERE. See below for the video; the conversation is underway as the video begins …


Video: Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka on the 10th Anniversary of Their Book

November 19, 2019

Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka recall the publication of On Heaven and Earth


In this recently recorded video, Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka reminisce about their many conversations that occurred in Buenos Aires in 2009-2010. At the time, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and Rabbi Skorka, rector of the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano, decided to assemble their dialogues into a book. It was later published in English as On Heaven and Earth.

As they now discuss their book, their warm friendship and rapport is obvious. Rabbi Skorka, currently University Professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, notes how the book, translated into many languages, has become a model for interreligious dialogue around the world. Pope Francis observes that, once published, a book takes on a life of its own. He goes on to call for more and more theological dialogue between Jews and Christians.

L’Osservatore Romano: “Words of fundamental importance in the face of the revival of antisemitism”

November 13, 2019

A conversation with Rabbi Abraham Skorka

by Andre Mondal

13 November 2019, p. 1 [unofficial translation from Italian]

Unscheduled words, spoken by the Pope at June 13, 2021 general audience, touched the heart of Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who was visiting the editorial staff of L’Osservatore Romano.

“This unexpected and impromptu comment of the Pope is of supreme importance: it reflects his deep commitment to the Jewish people. They are words that arouse in me great emotions and a sense of gratitude, bearing in mind the long history of misunderstandings between the Church and Jews. After so many years I know the Pope’s way of thinking and feeling, and I know that he very often digs deeply and, as he would say, says what comes from the bottom of his heart. This type of intervention on his part is certainly not new, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have great importance, especially in a historical moment like the present one.” (more…)

The Sound of Redemption

September 30, 2019
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, September 30, 2019, p. 6.]

By Abraham Skorka

Blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah at the Western Wall

According to Jewish tradition, at the beginning of each Hebrew year God judges every individual, all peoples and nations, and all humanity. The Holy One determines their destinies. But through repentance, prayer, and charity, a severe judgment can be changed. The basis of the celebration of Rosh Hashanah rests upon some key elements of the Jewish faith: the gifts that God has bestowed on each human being of free will and of the ability to regret and amend errors. When a person makes proper use of these capabilities to improve their behavior, God helps them by forgiving their mistakes. The Jewish New Year is the time on the Hebrew calendar when each Jew prays for himself or herself and for all humankind that everyone will do what God desires with firm resolution.

In the Torah, this holyday is the day when the Shofar or ram’s horn is blown (Numbers 29:1), according to the rabbinic interpretation of the verse (Rosh Hashanah 33, b). The sounding of the Shofar appears several times in the Bible, but two mentions are especially significant. It is the sound that accompanied the revelation of God to the Jewish people gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:19). According to Isaiah 27:13, it will be the sound that all will hear at the time of redemption. These two images are deeply associated with the essence of this holyday. The Jew enters into a special dialogue with the One God who has created everything, who knows the feelings and actions of each individual, who judges with mercy, and who will redeem each one in the future. (more…)