JON M. SWEENEY
SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
From the moment a conclave of cardinals elects a new pope in Vatican City, there are revelations. In March 2013, when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged as the new worldwide leader of the Roman Catholic Church, there were many stories about him: how he returned, post-conclave, to personally pay his hotel bill; how he liked to ride the subway in Buenos Aires, where he was archbishop, hearing confessions on the train; and that one of his best friends from Argentina was a rabbi.
The world outside of Buenos Aires was also, then, introduced to Rabbi Abraham Skorka. In addition to being congregational rabbi in Buenos Aires, Skorka is a biophysicist, a seminary rector, and a professor of biblical and rabbinic literature. Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio wrote a book together in Spanish, published in Argentina in 2010. After the conclave, the book appeared in English: On Heaven and Earth.
Guided each by their religious convictions, Rabbi Skorka and Pope Francis have spent many years talking about their understandings of God, theological and religious differences, and what it means to live as people of faith and religious commitment in the modern world. In their book, they go into detail on subjects such as atheism, abortion, fundamentalism, guilt, prayer, homosexuality, euthanasia, divorce, conflict between Arabs and Israelis, same-sex marriage, globalization, and the future of interreligious dialogue.
Rabbi Skorka occasionally travels outside South America to lecture on the subject of “Faithful Friendship,” interfaith dialogue, and what he has learned about Catholicism from the Pope.
He has recently said of his friendship with Pope Francis: “We have transformed our dialogue into a group conversation, exposing our souls. We accept all of the risks this implies, yet remain profoundly convinced that this is the only way for us to understand what it means to be a human being, moving ever closer to God.”
The two men remain close. Their friendship is the topic of Rabbi Skorka’s upcoming lecture at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 31. Skorka’s visit is sponsored by The Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, in Franklin. He will be involved in a weekend of talks and activities. The public lecture, on March 31, will be held at Sacred Heart, 7335 S. Highway 100, Franklin, and is free and open to all. Boswell Book Company will also be there, and Rabbi Skorka will be available to sign copies of On Heaven and Earth. Email or call the director of The Lux Center, Bonnie Shafrin, and tell her you plan to attend at 414-529-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon M. Sweeney is a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Milwaukee, and the author of many books, including The Pope Who Quit, which was optioned by HBO, and The Pope’s Cat series for children. He is also a board member of The Lux Center.