Newly translated book shows Pope, rabbi in dialogue

Colorado Springs, Colo., Apr 23, 2013 / 04:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The first book by Pope Francis to be translated into English was co-authored by an Argentine rabbi and illustrates the Pope's commitment to inter-religious dialogue, according to the book’s translator.

“It shows his understanding that inter-religious dialogue is based on two cornerstones: a very strong sense of each person’s religious identity and genuine personal respect and charity,” said translator Alejandro Bermudez.

Originally written in Spanish, “On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century” is now available for the first time in English. Published by Image Books, an imprint of Random House, it was released April 19 in print, digital and audio formats.

In the book's introduction, Pope Francis writes that dialogue “is born from a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals.”

“On Heaven and Earth” is a conversation between Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was originally published in Spanish in 2010.

According to the publisher, the book “records seminal discussions from numerous hours of conversation between the two religious leaders.”

Bermudez, who is executive director of Catholic News Agency, said that throughout the book's dialogue, Pope Francis, who was at the time Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, finds significant common ground with Skorka but “makes no concessions” about the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Skorka's assistant, Diego Rosemberg, told Bermudez that the book began with conversations on the spiritual aspects of the common tradition between Catholics and Jews.

These conversations grew into a monthly dialogue which was held always at Skorka's rabbinical school in the Belgrano neighborhood. Pope Francis always insisted that he travel to Skorka, to spare the rabbi the trouble of traveling the 8 miles to downtown Buenos Aires to meet at his office.

“On Heaven and Earth” covers a variety of topics, including God, atheism, fundamentalism, homosexuality, abortion, the Holocaust, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, heaven and poverty.

Until recently, the works of Pope Francis have been available only in his native tongue. “On Heaven and Earth” is his first book to be published in English. Two works on Jesuit spirituality, called “Humility, the road towards God” and “Corruption and sin,” are being published this month in Italian.

Eric Greenberg, a rabbi and an official at the Anti-Defamation League, said that the new English book “wonderfully demonstrates the warm and positive relationship Pope Francis has developed with Jews and Judaism.”

“These honest and respectful exchanges between then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka on a wide range of sensitive and complex topics … is a model not only for Jews and Catholics but for all those seeking productive interfaith dialogue in helping to repair a broken world.”

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