Pope Francis on Thursday hosted a delegation of 15 Jewish leaders from his native Argentina for an informal kosher lunch at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.
The conversation with the pontiff, who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, focused on strengthening interfaith dialogue, according to Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.
Epelman is also the World Jewish Congress official in charge of dialogue with the Catholic Church.
It was an “extraordinary gesture by Pope Francis to take more than two hours out of his busy schedule for a conversation with Jewish leaders from his native Argentina,” said Epelman, who organized the lunch with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka.
Pope Francis expressed hope that “this meeting will help nurture the seeds we have planted together” and said he was looking forward “with great expectations” to his visit to Israel in May.
At the end of the lunch, the group intoned Psalm 133 in Hebrew, which says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Argentina's Jewish community is the largest in Latin America.