Friday, May 11, 2007

Rabbi, pope exchange blessings

Pope Benedict XVI was blessed by a rabbi -- and blessed him back -- Thursday in Brazil.

The pope met Reform Rabbi Henry Sobel and other religious leaders during a five-day visit to Sao Paulo.

"With deep humility, I asked for a blessing and was blessed. I also asked for the pope's permission to bless him and was authorized to do so," Sobel said. "I'm feeling very light. It's not everyday that a rabbi gets a blessing from the pope."

Sobel called Benedict "a friend of the Jewish people" who "understands the importance of the interdependence of Christian and Jewish traditions."

With more than 30 years at the helm of Latin America's largest shul -- the 2,000-family CIP -- Sobel gained a strong reputation as a defender of human rights during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and is well known in Brazil for attempting to strengthen relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Lately he has been in the news after he was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting on a visit to Florida.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's more about the Rabbi...

The thread includes this interesting quote from a Brazilian newspaper. Which seems to "tie" the rabbi to a pot of gold stollen by Jewish Nazis from others (including undesirable Jews) then stashed in Brazil. It's good to know that the Pope knows where to go for a blessing. I guess we know who butters his bread? Some day, perhaps his biographer will set the stage for this "blessing" in a steamy, Brazililan bath house!


Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center ,
Los Angeles, said the Blume case "appears to be the first concrete discovery of a perpetrator's account, which is where we believe the lion's share of the Jewish wealth was hidden."

Suddenly the bizarre details and contradictions in Blume's life are kindling interest among Brazilians in a chapter of their past that once seemed remote, irrelevant or taboo -- a South American counterpart to the scandal over Swiss banks that swallowed Jewish assets.

Theories about Blume's treasure abound, but for now they are only theories.

Some say that Blume, who lived out his life as a pawnbroker, fled to Brazil to escape Nazi persecution of homosexuals and that the gold was merely collateral for loans.

But Rabbi Henry Sobel, the chief rabbi of Brazil, who heads the Brazilian commission, and others contend that Blume never owned the fortune. More likely, they say, this German-born member of the Nazi Party was sent to Brazil in 1938 as a spy and was later used as a conduit for stolen gold that now lies in a bank vault in his name.