Born in 1949, Rav Di Segni is a medical doctor specialised in diagnostic radiology. He is descended from three generations of rabbis. He completed his rabbinical studies in 1973 and was elected chief rabbi of Rome in November 1991.
On 16 January 2006, accompanied by the community chair, Leone Paserman, his deputy Roberto Coen and Professor Gavriel Levi, a psychiatrist by profession but also an expert on Jewish-Catholic dialogue, Rav Di Segni met with Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City.
EJP: Who took the initiative of the meeting between you and the Pope?
RDS: The papal audience followed a specific request I made last December. There is a relatively recent tradition of direct meetings and privileged relationships between the head of Rome’s rabbinate and the head of the Catholic church, and this visit intended to be a sign of continuity.”
EJP: Did you change your position after your refusal to join the celebrations of Nostra Aetate last October? (Last fall, Rav Di Segni decided not to participate in a debate on the progress of the Jewish-Catholic dialogue, regarding the presence of formerly-Jewish cardinal Lustiger as “inappropriate”.)
RDS: Not at all. I do believe that two persons should meet only on the basis of reciprocal respect. When this is lacking, one should justify one’s position. This was the case last fall. On the other hand, I consider the visit itself as an important step, because of last fall’s incident.
EJP: What subjects did you discuss with the Pope?
RDS: We touched on many questions, but I think that one point above all deserves to be underlined. The meeting took place in a truly friendly atmosphere and this allowed us to swiftly go over all the matters, both the easy and the more complex issues. I believe that the more you are aware of who you are, the more you allow your counterpart to appreciate your position.
|I do believe that two persons should meet only on the basis of reciprocal respect. When this is lacking, one should justify one’s position. This was the case last fall|
Rav Di Segni
EJP: Can you tell us more about the friendly atmosphere of the meeting?
RDS: Pope Benedict is a very cultivated person. So when I told him I was accompanied by a Coen and by a Levi he smiled and said that our delegation was really complete.
EJP: Can you compare the personalities of Pope Ratzinger and of late Pope Wojtyla?
RDS: I do not think I can do that. I last met with Pope Jean Paul II three years ago. Unfortunately, he already was in very bad health and this made the talks much harder.