Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Jewish synagogue in Rome on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Day, January 17, 2010, making him the second pontiff to enter the synagogue. Pope John Paul II was the first with a visit in 1986.
Pope Benedict accepted an invitation advanced by the president of Rome's Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici.
Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Day falls on a special day for Roman Jews: January 17 is the day in 1793 when, after a mob set fire to the Jewish ghetto, a sudden rain saved it from destruction.
The dialogue day is considered by many an effort by the Vatican to strengthen ties with the Italian Jewish community, which soured last year when the pontiff reinstated an Easter prayer that calls on Jews to convert to Christianity.
In another effort at dialogue, Italian Jews launched a new, monthly newspaper for a non-Jewish target audience. Sponsored by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, the new paper, Pagine Ebraiche, will feature news, commentaries, and articles on Italian Jewish historical and cultural issues.
The paper's stated mission is to increase dialogue and strengthen ties between Jewish and non-Jewish Italians. ‘Italian Jews are very representative of Italian society in general', said journalist Guido Vitale, director of the new paper. ‘I want to construct a piazza, an agora, where they can interact with each other and with Italian society.' Pagine Ebraiche is available at newsstands in Italy's major cities and online at http://moked.it/paginebraiche.