In a presentation titled “Holy Land Holy See,” Visiting Assistant Professor Zion Evrony, who served as Israeli ambassador to the Vatican from 2012 to 2016, described Catholic-Jewish relations as “excellent.”
“The relations between Judaism and the Catholic Church are excellent today, the best they have been in 2,000 years,” said Evrony during the April 27 event in Caldwell Auditorium. “We have a warm, open friendly dialogue. Pope Francis is a great friend of the Jewish people. In one of our meetings he jokingly told me, ‘They say that I meet more Jewish groups than Catholic groups ...’ ”
Evrony has been teaching politics and theology courses at The Catholic University of America since fall 2016. He also has served as Ambassador to Ireland, Consul General in Houston, and Consul in New York.
“It’s a great blessing to this University to have him here with us to share a little bit of his experiences and to help us understand more the depths and riches of what our two great religions can share with one another,” said Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies.
During his presentation, Evrony talked about the highlights of his time as ambassador to the Vatican, his initiatives to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding, and shared videos and pictures of himself with both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
“I had the unique opportunity to be in Rome during the historic transition from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis,” noted Evrony. He further added that “the relations between Israel and the Vatican are unique because they are based on both theology and political interest.”
In talking about his personal history, he said, “Coming from a very poor family and neighborhood and here I am meeting with one pope and another pope and accompanying our president and prime minister to these important meetings.”
Evrony shared with the audience of students, faculty, and guests that he was once told about a small button on the Pope’s chair that the Holy Father presses when he wants a meeting with a guest to end.
“When he presses the button, the chief of protocol appears immediately and stands there and you know that the meeting is over,” said Evrony. “I knew traditionally that an ambassador gets 15 minutes with the Pope in a private meeting. My challenge was how to extend this time which I did by raising issues of interest to the Pope ...”
In his farewell meeting with Pope Francis, Evrony presented him with a gift — a handmade calligraphy of Psalm 82, verse 3, in Latin and Hebrew that reads: “Defend the poor and the orphans, do justice to the needy.”
Evrony thanked Father Morozowich for the warm way he was received at Catholic University.