Recalling God's signs and wonders in liberating his
On Thursday eveing, 17 April , after meeting with
Represetnatives of other Religions, the Holy Father made a brief Visit
to the cultural Center's Chapel and proceeded to the Polish National
Room, where he met briefly with members of the Jewish Community and gave
them the Message found below for the Hebrew Passover which began on
Saturday, 29 April.
My dear friends,
I extend special greetings of peace to the Jewish community in the
United States and throughout the world as you prepare to celebrate the
annual feast of Pesah. My visit to this country has coincided with this
feast, allowing me to meet with you personally and to assure you of my
prayers as you recall the signs and wonders God performed in liberating
his chosen people. Motivated by our common spiritual heritage, I am
pleased to entrust to you this message as a testimony to our hope
centered on the Almighty and his mercy.
Greeting on Pesah
'Our Easter and your
Pesah, while different and distinct, unite us in our common hope
centered on God and his mercy'
To the Jewish community on the Feast of Pesah
My visit to the United States offers me the occasion to extend a warm
and heartfelt greeting to my Jewish brothers and sisters in this country
and throughout the world. A greeting that is all the more spiritually
intense because the great feast of Pesah is approaching. "This day shall
be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord;
throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for
ever" (Exodus 12: 14). While the Christian celebration of Easter differs
in many ways from your celebration of Pesah, we understand and
experience it in continuation with the biblical narrative of the mighty
works which the Lord accomplished for his people.
At this time of your most solemn celebration, I feel particularly close,
precisely because of what Nostra Aetate calls Christians to remember
always: that the Church "received the revelation of the Old Testament
through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded
the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from
the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted
the wild shoots, the Gentiles" (Nostra Aetate, 4). In addressing myself
to you I wish to re-affirm the Second Vatican Council's teaching on
Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church's commitment to the
dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our
relationship for the better.
Because of that growth in trust and friendship, Christians and Jews can
rejoice together in the deep spiritual ethos of the Passover, a memorial
(zikkarôn) of freedom and redemption. Each year, when we listen to the
Passover story we return to that blessed night of liberation. This holy
time of the year should be a call to both our communities to pursue
justice, mercy, solidarity with the stranger in the land, with the widow
and orphan, as Moses commanded: "But you shall remember that you were a
slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore
I command you to do this" (Deuteronomy 24: 18).
At the Passover Sèder you recall the holy patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob, and the holy women of Israel, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael and Leah,
the beginning of the long line of sons and daughters of the Covenant.
With the passing of time the Covenant assumes an ever more universal
value, as the promise made to Abraham takes form: "I will bless you and
make your name great, so that you will be a blessing... All the
communities of the earth shall find blessing in you" (Genesis 12: 2-3).
Indeed, according to the prophet Isaiah, the hope of redemption extends
to the whole of humanity: "Many peoples will come and say: 'Come, let us
go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths'"
(Isaiah 2: 3). Within this eschatological horizon is offered a real
prospect of universal brotherhood on the path of justice and peace,
preparing the way of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 62: 10).
Christians and Jews share this hope; we are in fact, as the prophets
say, "prisoners of hope" (Zachariah 9: 12). This bond permits us
Christians to celebrate alongside you, though in our own way, the
Passover of Christ's death and resurrection, which we see as inseparable
from your own, for Jesus himself said: "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4: 22). Our Easter and your
Pesah, while distinct and different,
unite us in our common hope centered on God and his mercy. They urge us
to cooperate with each other and with all men and women of goodwill to
make this a better world for all as we await the fulfillment of God's
With respect and friendship, I therefore ask the Jewish community to
accept my Pesah greeting in a spirit of openness to the real
possibilities of cooperation which we see before us as we contemplate
the urgent needs of our world, and as we look with compassion upon the
sufferings of millions of our brothers and sisters everywhere.
Naturally, our shared hope for peace in the world embraces the Middle
East and the Holy Land in particular. May the memory of God's mercies,
which Jews and Christians celebrate at this festive time, inspire all
those responsible for the future of that region
— where the events surrounding God's revelation actually took
to new efforts, and especially to new attitudes and a new
purification of hearts!
In my heart I repeat with you the psalm of the paschal Hallel (Psalm
118: 1-4), invoking abundant divine blessings upon you: "O give thanks
to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. Let
Israel say, 'His steadfast love endures forever.' . . . Let those who
fear the Lord say, 'His steadfast love endures forever'."
From the Vatican, 14 April 2008