by Viviane Hewitt in Rome HISTORY will be made when the Pope meets with the Grand Rabbi of Israel later this year. Jewish sources this week added to speculation in Rome that the Pope will be meeting with Grand Rabbi Israel Lau next September — the first such encounter in Church history.
As a Grand Rabbi of Israel, Israel Lau, who is head of the Ashkenazy community of Jews originally from central Europe, would be going against the wishes of orthodox Judaism. Powerful orthodox lobbies in Israel have always vetoed a meeting on the grounds that, as the leader of Catholicism, a pontiff is a "source of impurity", Jewish community sources said in Rome.
But Israel Lau told the ITIM news agency that he was convinced of the importance of dialogue with the Pope. This would be fundamental for launching dialogue with other monotheist religions," the Grand Rabbi said.
The State of Israel and the Holy See have still not reached full accord on questions obstructing diplomatic relations between the two states.
The thorniest issues on the list are the status of the city of Jerusalem, which the Vatican once suggested be "protected" by an internationally guaranteed charter because of its importance for the world's three major monotheist faiths, and conditions in Israel for small Christian communities which complain of administrative difficulties under Israeli laws.
It is believed that Vatican Secretariat of State officials headed by Archbishop JeanLouis Tauran are already liaising with the Israeli Foreign Ministry on the meeting.
The unprecedented talks between the Pope and the Grand Rabbi would take place during the inter-confessional convention held in Rome in September.
Over Easter the Israeli press agency, ITIM, suggested that the Pope was already in personal contact with the Grand Rabbi.
Reports in Rome said that Israel Lau had urged John Paul II to issue an "explicit condemnation of all forms of terrorism of the fanatical religious stamp,"