Lord Sacks, Britain’s Chief Rabbi, has described his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit last month as “an epiphany”.
The Chief Rabbi met the Pope at a meeting with religious leaders and people of faith at Twickenham. The meeting involved the leaders of all the major faiths in Britain.
His account of the meeting is included in the official record of the state visit, published last week by the Catholic Truth Society.
In it, Lord Sacks said: “Soul touched soul across the boundaries of faith, and there was a blessed moment of healing”.
The Chief Rabbi added that the Pope “valued” the Catholic-Jewish relationship and that “he wanted the work to continue and deepen [it]”.
Lord Sacks, whose full title is Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, said that welcoming the Pope on behalf of non-Christians in Britain was “a moment I shall never forget”.
He added that the meeting illustrated the Vatican’s emphasis on the “importance of respect and friendship between faiths”.
The meeting was of particular significance, he said, because of the “tear-stained history of the Catholic-Jewish relationship”.
He said: “Over the centuries, the relationship between the Church and the Jews has been one of the saddest stories in the history of religion” – and one, he said, that “might have continued were it not for the darkest night of all, the Holocaust”.
He also praised mid-20th century Pope John XXIII, a “very great Pope indeed”, for having laid the foundation for the Second Vatican Council, “one of the greatest acts of reconciliation in religious history”.
The official record of the state visit, entitled Benedict XVI and Blessed John Henry Newman, costs £14.95 and is available here.