Writing in the Jewish Chronicle last month, Isabel de Bertodano noted that the night before the inauguration of his Petrine ministry, Pope Francis made a call to Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires, a dear friend whom he has known for some time. “Hello, it’s Bergoglio. They trapped me here in Rome and they won’t let me come home.” The two friends first met in the 1990s when then Archbishop Bergoglio invited members of other faiths to the Cathedral in Buenos Aires to celebrate Argentinian independence.
Now rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka recalled an early meeting as the Archbishop broke the ice initially with humor, relating to their having loyalties to rival football teams in Buenos Aires, where just about everyone closely follows their favorite – explaining that Rabbi Skorka follows the River Plate club, known to rivals as “chickens.” The Pope, who is a fan of the San Lorenzo club, looked at Rabbi Skorka and smiled: ‘I think this year we’re going to eat chicken soup,’” which Rabbi Skorka found amusing, which began a friendship that has lasted 20 years.
Since then they have attended one another’s holy services, including a special service for Rosh Hashanah, marking the first occasion on which an Archbishop of Buenos Aires had visited a synagogue and shared reflections with the Jewish community on their common experiences. In 2012, then Cardinal Bergoglio awarded Rabbi Skorka with an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Buenos Aires.
Rabbi Skorka later wrote the prologue to “El Jesuita,” the authorized biography first published in 2010, and released in English last month under the title, “Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in His Own Words,” containing interviews with Cardinal Bergoglio. This then led to the idea of their collaboration on this book, “On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century,” released in English on April 19, 2013, exactly one month after Pope Francis was inaugurated.
The press release from Image Books for this publication provides this description of the book:
An encapsulation of what the new pope believes, On Heaven and Earth addresses a variety of theological and worldly topics including God, fundamentalism, atheism, the Holocaust, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization.
“Dialogue is born from a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say,” writes then Cardinal Bergoglio in the introduction to the book. “It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals.”
A Spanish-language edition of the book under the title “Sobre el Cielo y la Terra,” was previously published in 2010 in Latin America and Spain by Random House Mondadori.’
Another interesting publication, “A Call To Serve: Pope Francis and the Catholic Future,” co-edited by Stefan von Kempis of Vatican Radio, and editor Philip Lawler, of the Catholic World News.