Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy



The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, truly a gentleman and scholar and pastor of souls [pictured here with Pope Francis], met me late at night near the Iranian Embassy in Rome, on 3 November 2005, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. I had wanted to express solidarity with my fathers in the faith. Rabbi di Segni’s first words to me were: “Sia laudato Gesù Cristo!”

A Missionary of Mercy of Pope Francis is a Jew?

  • Catholics: “No surprise there!” hopefully said pleasantly.
  • Jews: “?באמת” followed by “!מצוין” I hope.

Here’s all I know:

  • Yes, I’m a 100% Jew according to Knesset accepted halakhic requirements
  • Yes, my mom is a 100% Jewess and spoke a bit of Yiddish
  • Yes, her mother and grandmother spoke fluent Yiddish and both had common Jewish names
  • Yes, she gave me the name David (though my dad imposed George in front of that)
  • Yes, she gave me a Jewish nickname anyway: Jordan (when she wasn’t using Yiddish knicknames with me when I was being a troublemaker!)
  • Yes, my parents funded my education at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus
  • Yes, I did live on the other side of the wall from Hebrew Union College across from Jerusalem’s King David Hotel
  • Yes, I speak a bit of modern Hebrew and know enough Biblical Hebrew to correct specialist historical philological studies
  • Yes, I’ve written things which discredit hundreds of years of anti-Semitic idiocy, destroying even the foundations of anti-semitism that have been stupidly proffered at the very highest of academic levels.
  • Yes, I would like to write more, if only the Pontifical Household would release a certain document from the mid-1940s, and they know of what I speak, since a bishop and a number of Cardinals were involved in the request (look it up, guys…)
  • Yes, I’m trying to kick-start what has been called by the chief rabbi for dialogue between Israel and the Holy See that which goes far beyond what any such dialogue countenanced by the Holy See has offered to date, bringing things to a different level altogether
  • Yes, I’ve walked a huge portion of the greater Israel, until my legs were about to fall off, and have otherwise visited here and there quite exhaustively, feeling myself to be at home
  • Yes, I am circumcised!
  • Yes, I’ve sung Israeli folk songs in Hebrew by heart
  • Yes, I’ve said Mass in Hebrew entirely by heart
  • Yes, I do like to “talk about Saturday” ;-) [Not taking it seriously is the reason for the Exile, a mockery of the Most High, but, mind you, Jesus’ critics were not taking it seriously]
  • Yes, I did feel more at home walking through the Jewish “Ghetto” in Rome over the decades of my sojourn in Rome than in many of the churches I visited and passed by, mentioning this to good friends over the years, and this for reasons which they could provide even if they didn’t know me (and yes, I do have comments to make about the fact of the ghetto and “the” church at its peripheries)
  • Yes, I do have friends who have my back; after all: תשועה ברוב יועץ
  • Yes, I do want dual Israeli-USA citizenship (possible for me?)
  • Yes, I admit it: I do need to grow pe’ot (You’ll have to see if I do!)

Why do I bring this up on Arise! Let us be going! ?

Because a disclaimer (or warning) of sorts is appropriate before I launch into some articles on Jewish-Catholic dialogue. I am intrigued by a deepening of the dialogue presented by Cardinal Koch at the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of the Year of Mercy, all the more so as commentators left and right present their utter ignorance of the issues and what is at stake. I look forward to this with an eye to provide mercy, a heart wide open to receive that mercy, the aim being to be drawn together by the Most High to the accomplishment of His Holy Will. Is this not part of what being a Missionary of Mercy is all about?

Arise! Let us be going!

— Father George David Byers


Filed under Jewish-Catholic dialogue, Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Year of Mercy

4 responses to “Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy

  1. Angela P

    I have a great interest in our faith from the perspective of its Jewish roots. Not for any known Jewish heritage, but as our shared faith history. I look forward to these upcoming posts. God bless you.

  2. Carmel

    So sorry! Trying again: have you seen the Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christanity at http://cjcuc.com/site/2015/12/03/orthodox-rabbinic-statement-on-christianity/? Looking forward to this, as to all series you post. God bless you and the work you’ve undertaken

    • Father George David Byers

      @ Carmel — Thanks for that! I’m kind of run off my feet in this tiny parish but with huge territory. I most appreciate any heads-up that you might be able to give me. Well done.

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