A pope’s friend: Rabbi Skorka of Buenos Aires coming to Milwaukee

From the moment a conclave of cardinals elects a new pope in Vatican City, there are revelations, and I don’t mean discoveries of faith.

In March 2013, when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerged as the new worldwide leader of the Roman Catholic Church, there were many stories about him: how he returned, post-conclave, to personally pay his hotel bill; how he liked to ride the subway in Buenos Aires, where he was archbishop, hearing confessions on the train; and that one of his best friends from Argentina was a rabbi.

Jon M. Sweeney, a board member of The Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, writes about the unusual rabbi set to visit the center in Franklin.

The world outside of Buenos Aires was also, then, introduced to Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who is just as remarkable. In addition to being congregational rabbi of Community Benei Tikva, in Buenos Aires, Skorka is a biophysicist, a seminary rector (at Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano, the Conservative movement’s “Latin American Rabbinical Seminary,” also in Buenos Aires), and a professor of biblical and rabbinic literature. Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio wrote a book together in Spanish, published in Argentina in 2010. After Bergoglio’s election as pope, the book appeared in English: “On Heaven and Earth.”

Guided each by their religious convictions, Rabbi Skorka and Pope Francis have spent many years talking about their understandings of God, theological and religious difference, and what it means to live as people of faith and religious commitment in the modern world. In their book, they go into detail on subjects such as atheism, abortion, fundamentalism, guilt, prayer, homosexuality, euthanasia, divorce, conflict between Arabs and Israelis, same-sex marriage, globalization and the future of interreligious dialogue.

Rabbi Skorka occasionally travels outside South America to lecture on the subject of “Faithful Friendship,” interfaith dialogue, and what he has learned about Catholicism from the Pope. He has recently said of his friendship with Pope Francis: “We have transformed our dialogue into a group conversation, exposing our souls. We accept all of the risks this implies, yet remain profoundly convinced that this is the only way for us to understand what it means to be a human being, moving ever closer to G-d.”

The two men remain close friends. Their friendship is the topic of Rabbi Skorka’s upcoming lecture, March 31 at 2 p.m., in greater Milwaukee. The Rabbi’s visit is sponsored by The Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, in Franklin. He will be involved in a weekend of talks and activities. The public lecture, on March 31, will be held in Franklin at Sacred Heart, 7335 S. Hwy. 100, and is free and open to all, but please email or call the director of The Lux Center, Bonnie Shafrin, and tell her you’re coming. 414-529-6966, BShafrin@Shsst.edu.

Jon M. Sweeney is the publisher of Paraclete Press in Massachusetts and author of many books including “The Pope Who Quit,” which was optioned by HBO. He is also the husband of Rabbi Michal Woll of Congregation Shir Hadash in Milwaukee.