Tracing the roots of dialogue for Peace in Europe

Alessandro Clemenzia and Rabbi Levi of Florence


Last 13 January, also IUS took part in the soiree promoted as always within the context of the Annual Day for in-depth dialogue between Catholics and Jews, sponsored by the Italian Bishops’ Conference Commission for ecumenism and dialogue, in partnership with the Italian Rabbinical Assembly.
The “Jewish Day” – in its abbreviated form – is celebrated specifically in the days before the start of the Week of Prayer for unity among Christians, and since 2007 has focused on the ten Words of the biblical Decalogue, according to Jewish enumeration.  This year’s theme, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour” (Ex 20.16), was entrusted to Rav Joseph Levi, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Florence, and Alessandro Clemenzia, Professor of Ecclesiology and Systematic Theology at the IUS and the Faculty of Theology of central Italy.


serata ebraismo 2015


It was a fraternal and intense meeting, which started with a song of peace taken from the Jewish tradition and sung by the choir of the international town of Loppiano. The timing of this encounter with the recent terrible events in Paris seemed to stress once again the need to consolidate the roads of fraternity between Jews and Catholics for a peaceful present and future. The in-depth study of the biblical theme of false testimony, which urges us not to suffocate the relationships between us through false testimonies, was a strong impulse to reflect on the actualisation of this commandment, also in the name of religious freedom.


“I would like to open this evening by commemorating the 17 people killed in the terrorist attack against the freedom of thought, speech and press, values for which Europe has long fought for” –Rabbi Levi said. And as to the slogan ”We are all Charlie Hebdo,” he continued, “I am not discussing the right to express one’s own religious or lay beliefs, whatever it is. But we should not necessarily seek for a clashing, or lose sensitivity. If we want to build a future of dialogue, let’s try to be more sensitive to accepting Islam in Europe, and open the doors in the right way.”


And going back to the theme of the evening, Rav Levi explained that in Jewish the commandment says: “Do not give false witness against your friend.” The sense of the commandment thus regards interpersonal relationships, explaining that “the entire social and juridical system is based on trust and urges us to give a true and just testimony, to be active in social life, and put solidarity into practice.” This is why false witness destroys the basis for social cohesion, precisely because it undermines interpersonal relationships.


Alessandro Clemenzia, who firstly underlined the constant commitment of Joseph Levi in cultivating dialogue and cooperation, then evidenced the communications dimension of this commandment.  With the Word, God was the first to communicate with his people, making them his people. And always through the Word, God generates and regenerates us in a relationship with Him. Communication is, therefore, a divine act which contains in itself a creative force and an intense relational dynamics.


Text by: Stefania Tanesini

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