We live our respective faiths most deeply by being in covenantal relationships with one another, bound by our shared humanity. For me, this was never validated more powerfully than during a recent, unexpected trip to Rome. I was invited to join a delegation of 20 interfaith leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) to meet with Pope Francis for a conversation in his residence in Vatican City...I embarked with the blessings of the leadership of Temple Solel, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center and the Central Conference of American Rabbis....
As we shared our community organizing experiences, we were all struck by how carefully Pope Francis listened. His humility profoundly moved me. He listens lovingly from a place of curiosity, openness and humor. He loves to smile and laugh! The Pope was just fun to be with!...
The Pope, though just learning about us, remarked that the IAF is “Good news for the United States.”
What profound validation for the local work of the Valley Interfaith Project (VIP), our IAF network affiliate. I feel great pride that Temple Solel has been a member of VIP for 15 years, acting together within a broad-based interfaith organization to carry the words of Torah into the real world....
At the conclusion of our conversation, I presented Pope Francis with a leather-bound and gold-leaf Hebrew Bible. I said to him, through a translator, “Your Holiness, I have never been more certain that we stand on common ground.”
The Pope got a kick out of it when I told him that my (almost) 94-year-old mother-in-law inscribed the book the night before my flight to Rome.
I think about the unlikely paths that brought each of the 20 members of the IAF delegation together — paths paved by the common values of our sacred texts, which merged into a collective pilgrimage to Rome, to be touched by the presence and soul of this magnificent man, all of us recognizing that the ground upon which we stand as brothers and sisters is, indeed, holy ground. Now back home, we are strengthened by one another, interconnected through our respective faiths, emboldened and blessed by Pope Francis to continue our sacred work, channeling the words of Micah, to “do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.
[Rabbi John Linder is a leader with Temple Solel and Valley Interfaith Project (VIP).]
Pilgrimage to Meet with Pope Francis, Jewish News