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Pope Francis lives with mind in heaven and feet on earth, says Rabbi friend

November 7th, 2013
09:31 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

One of Pope Francis’ dearest friends is none other than a Jewish Rabbi.

And Rabbi Abahram Skorka, who has known Pope Francis for 15 years, since he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, has a concise description of what makes Francis’ papacy different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger.

Pope Francis “lives with his mind in heaven and with his feet on Earth,” Rabbi Skorka told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday. “And Ratzinger lived totally in heaven.”

Abraham Skorka, a prominent Argentine rabbi, has had frank and open conversations with Pope Francis since he was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. Those discussions are the topic of a book written by both, “On Heaven and Earth.”

Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio formed their friendship, the rabbi said, over that most beloved of traditions: soccer.

“The beginning was through jokes,” Rabbi Skorka said. “But behind the jokes … [I] understood then that he sent me a message: ‘I open my heart.’”

Since then, their friendship has been one of not only jokes, but deep theological thought.

Pope Francis has proved, from his first day as the Bishop of Rome, that his will be a different papacy: One that emphasizes humility and deep analysis, not pomp or dogma.

And from their 15-year-long relationship, Rabbi Skorka drew evidence of just how true that was.

On the issue of priestly celibacy, Cardinal Bergolgio in the book says, "It is an issue of discipline, not faith."

“He told me, look, I receive this tradition, but I know this is not a dogma,” Rabbi Skorka told Amanpour. “This is just a tradition and maybe that in the future it could be changed.”

“Don't forget that he has had history of 2,000 years behind him,” he said. But “he has a very open mind in order to analyze all the things. For him, there is not a closed thing – even homosexuality, even abortion – to analyze.”

Their friendship sits on the shoulders of interfaith relations that have often been treated with deep skepticism, piqued most notably during World War II, and Jews’ questioning of whether Pope Pius XII could have done more to stem the atrocity.

In the book, as Cardinal, Bergoglio seemed to stand behind those who want to open up the Vatican archives.

“Let them be opened and let everything be cleared up,” Bergoglio said. “If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say, ‘We have erred.’ We don’t need to be scared of this – the truth as to be the goal.”

Rabbi Skorka said that Francis will surely “do what he said – that it has to be done.”

In the book, the two also discuss Argentina’s terrible years under military dictatorship, when the so-called “Dirty War” flourished.

Cardinal Bergoglio compared the Argentine Catholic Church to the Chilean Church, which observers say stood up more firmly to its dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

“It’s a [critique of] the Argentinian church,” Rabbi Skorka said. “Catholic priests were present in the places where people were tortured. And he criticized a lot this kind of priest.”

Some have questioned Pope Francis’ own role during the war, and Rabbi Skorka broached the topic with his friend.

“He has a very critical point of view regarding his own attitude during that period, asking himself, ‘Did I do the utmost?’”

“But what we know now, very clear, that he hoped a lot of people – he saved a lot of people.”

Rabbi Skorka said he did not know what the Pope would change in the Church “in a pragmatical way,” for example about the role of women.

“But what I am really sure is that he will analyze one and thousand times what is possible to be changed. He will open the debate.”

It is undeniable, though, that the Pope has put forward a new face for the Catholic Church.

Since he ascended to the papacy, Rabbi Skorka said, Cardinal Bergoglio “laughs more.”

“He used to smile, but now very much often,” he said. “He laughs with a big laugh. And why? Because he knows that he must transmit – and it's coming out from his heart – because he knows that he must transmit an image of hope, of hope through his laugh.”

soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. judysheppsbattle

    "Pope Francis lives with his mind in heaven and with his feet on Earth” –Rabbi Skorka

    Those who know me are aware that I am not Catholic and yet, from the first day that this Pope was elected, I have been one of his biggest fans.

    Pope Francis may dress in different garb from my Buddhist brothers and sisters, speak with different terminology, use different ceremonies, but he shares the same heart-felt compassion for human beings.

    Each time he speaks out to support human dignity and choice, a conversation is born between many who have refused dialog on these subjects. And that is the beginning of the possibility of change, of increasing human connections instead of mountains of separation.

    Is he perfect? Is he addressing every issue that needs addressing all at once? Is he free of skeletons in his closet with regard to previous beliefs and statements (before he was Pope)?

    No. Most certainly, no.

    But, as I am learning in my own life, the best standard to apply is "progress, not perfection" with regard to any change, personal or societal.

    This article is a really good one, as is the video clip on the CNN page. I hope folks will read it and just sit with the energy it generates for a while.

    I did, and it has brought a calm peace to my heart as well as hope that our weary world has an option other than continuing on the fast lane to painful extinction.

    At least this is how it feels on a mild rainy November day here in Central NJ, USA that precedes a cold front that will confirm winter is here.

    Copyright 2013 Judy Shepps Battle

    November 7, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
    • T Collet

      A Catholic pope who shows us the Buddha within him.

      November 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Reply
      • MattD

        You mean like the Dalai Lama who only tolerates gays, but does not "Embrace" them?

        November 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
      • Robert Wakely

        I object to any association of an alien deity with Catholicism.

        November 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • jew

      jew CNN media world news. more news for jews.

      November 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Reply
      • Glenn E Stockley

        hey...the hebes own the media....what else is new......

        November 8, 2013 at 7:54 am |
      • Santiago

        A totally inappropriate racist comment by an obvious NAZI. I wonder how they let that be printed.

        November 10, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Lino Gonzales

      I totally agree with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Peace be with you.

      November 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • AFUNE WILLIAMS

      Pope Francis is a great man and i personally adore his character.The Rabbi could not have explained better than this.This is what the world should engage instead of religious intolerance.

      November 13, 2013 at 5:31 am | Reply
  2. bostontola

    "during World War II, and Jews’ questioning of whether Pope Pius XII could have done more to stem the atrocity."

    The cowardice exhibited by the RCC in WWII went well beyond abandoning Jews, they abandoned the Spanish Catholics when Hitler bombed Guernica. This gap in conviction will stain the RCC for a long time.

    But this pope is just what they needed. He will help bring numbers up in Africa and Asia, the biggest growth markets in the world. Good selection.

    November 7, 2013 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • Tom Wittmann

      It is very easy to criticize 5 Pius XII because he refused to 1005 oppose Hitler and so eventually (certainly not assuredly!!) save Jewish lives. But doing so, he would have put in danger the German Church. I am not saying here nothing ne, but obviously, you are not very firm in History!!

      November 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Reply
    • treelily

      A selective reading of the role of the church in WWII is just so totally wrong. The church suffered a terrible pogrom of their clergy, of all faith groups apart, more of its clergy ended up in the death camps than others, (Maximilian Kolbe) the church and its people saved millions, hid so many, suffered with the world, protected so many in narratives that get lost under a single dimensional story that has no merit beyond a desire to besmirch even that which was good, and it does no credit o our humanity either.

      November 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  3. Agwuja Emmanuel A.

    Almighty God is our guide. So, we are guided to understand our Pope rightly for we are genuinely Faithful of our God and God's purpose for giving us Pope Francis.

    November 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
    • TABUSOHAIL

      HOW ABOUT READING AND UNDERSTANDING BIBLE YOURSELF.STOP LOOKING AT POPE IF HE 'S MAKE FRIEND WHO CRUCIFIED OUR JESUS (PBUH)

      November 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
      • Leigh Anne

        Interesting Tabusohail....this Jew did not crucify Jesus....that occurred over 2000 years ago. Even then, the Romans were a big part of that scene.......

        November 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Tom Wittmann

        TABUSOHAIL

        The Jews crucified Jesus??? The Palestine was governed by the Romans who occupied this territory and oppressed the Jews. And was 100% Jew reformist, and even if the gospels do not tell clearly so, as they were were widely incomplete, unaccurate and heavily censored by the Church (they were it up to 200 years after what they address happened. ) , clearly crtiical of the Romans. The inscription INRI [Jesus Nazarene King (Rex in latin) Jews (Iudæi in Latin)} shows clearly why and who crucified him!!

        And who supported him?? A part of the population, which happened to be all JEWS. And many other opposed him, as by the Old Testament his alleged self-proclamation as KING was a sacrilege.

        The concept that the Jew crucified Jesus was a concept promoted by the outrageous priest in the Middle Ages,
        for consumption of the illiterate masses.

        Which conceptually still exists today, represented in the US by the pseudo-christian "evangelics" , a fundamentalist hate filled sect, which outrageous performance feeds the ranting of the Atheist.

        November 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • AC

        Does anyone not realize that PBUH means "Peace Be Unto Him", and that the author is likely therefore Muslim and would have a different view and understanding of events?

        RC here, btw....

        November 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • john

        I am sorry that you are ignorant of the fact that NO Jew killed Yeshua ben Yoseph, but so were many others throughout history. That bible itself says that Herod was an Edomite. That is a person from the line of Esau. If you read the bible, you will find that the Esau and his line loved blood. Jews are from the line of Judah. There was Abraham, Isaac ( Who had Jacob/Israel and Esau ), Jacob had twelve sons, including Judah ( Jude/Jew ). Israel represents all the 12 tribes. The Edomites were defeated and the Jews forced them to convert to Judiasm. It was a mistake. Isaac prophesied that Esau would one day no longer be ruled over by his brother. Before the time of Jesus, Herod, his father ruled over the land of Judia and that came under Roman rule as well. Herod the greats sons, also ruled after their father. This is the same man that tried to kill Jesus when he was a baby. Herod being the king, appointed his Edomite priests ( converted ) and religious rulers who later condemned Jesus. Do you remember that Jesus said that they were NOT Jews at all? That not even Abraham was their father? So, the lie of history that Jews had anything to do with Jesus death, is just that a lie. Just like it was a lie, that Jews poisoned wells and caused the black black. Just like it is a lie, that they hold Gazans in prison. No one ever mentions the Egyptian army that locks thes terrorists and block-aids them in as well. Why? Read the local papers in the country in the area. Egyptian solders are killed all the time by these terrorists, it is a mess. Weapons still get in. Egypt and Israel both gave up the land of Gaza and they are both being killed because of it. 16,000 rockets have landed in Israel from Gaza since they gave it up. It is time to stop lying about the Jews. He who lies about them and spreads false rumors is just as guilty as those who burned them at the stake and hung them.

        November 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • Mohamed Z. Rahaman

        Tabu Sohail – you write as though you are a Christian, however, it appears that like me, you are a Muslim. Why did you pick this time to accuse the Jewish people of crucifying Jesus (pbuh)? Whatever happened then was over 2000 years ago and while there are Jews who may have done bad things then, we cannot hold all Jews responsible for the sins of a few. We don't like it when people accuse us of being terrorists etc., these days, and yet you do the same to others. The fact is this Pope has demonstrated humility and grace is certainly something that all of us can embrace, even if we are not Catholic. After all, God Almighty says in the Noble Qur'an that "the Christians aret he nearest to you (Muslims)" and Almighty God also give an honorofic name to the Jews, Christian and Sabiens, i.e., "People of the Book". When the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers were persecuted in Makkah, he (the Prophet) sent his supporters to seek the protection of a Christian King in Abysinnia. Do not my friend, let your hatred for a people or politics blind you from being able to recognize the good in people from all faiths or background. Peace.

        November 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
      • terminaldogma75

        I can only assume that you are aware that Jesus was a Jew himself and it was the Romans that ruled the region at the times so they were getting rid of a Jewish troublemaker from there perspective.

        November 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
      • Santiago

        Jesus was Jewish. It is not the Jews that Crucified Jesus it was the Pharisees, who in reality represent those people throughout history who have been corrupted by righteousness, power and wealth.

        November 10, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  4. Leigh Anne

    I wonder if the Pope believes this gentle Jew will be in heaven with him?

    November 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • Andersch

      Actually he'll have little doubt. The bible itself states, that the people of the law will be judged by the law, but those who believe in Christ will come to heaven through gods mercy.

      Despite the hatefull ravings of some fanatics on all sides, there is little doubt that god has provisions for ALL humans. The details of those provisions ... well that's a tricky questions.

      Though in the end the main question will be: did you love god and your next?

      November 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • MattD

      Probably, since it is the view of the RCC that Jews are already saved. How about that? Chosen and saved!

      November 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Reply
      • Robert Wakely

        Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through Me."

        November 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Liz M

      I guess you didn't see his pronouncement that even atheists go to heaven. Do good and we will all be in the right place.

      November 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply
      • Robert Wakely

        Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through Me."

        November 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
      • Ray

        The Pope never said atheists are going to heaven. He said they must follow their conscience, which stems from a belief that all humans have a conscience that tells them right from wrong. His words were twisted by the media. He said that atheists can be saved, as can anyone, if they come to God with repentance.

        Which would mean they would need to convert. The problem in the media is that they read what they want to read in his words, not what is actually said.

        As far as who is saved, Romans makes that clear. Those who do not have the law, yet follow it it, show that they have the law in their hearts and are a law onto themselves (and will be judged accordingly).

        November 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  5. Mimi

    May God Bless Our Pope Francis.

    November 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
    • Yahweh

      Meh

      November 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  6. Xyuche

    I love and admire the personality of Pope Francis.I will apreciate if he can use his papalcy diplomacy to reach out to our Islamic brothers in Nigeria so that the issue of Boko Haram will be a thing of the past in Nigeria.God bless Nigeria,The Pope and the Church.pla Amanpo invite some of the top Muslem clerics in Nigeria lets know their view about Boko Haram . Thanks

    November 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  7. ashok

    To acknowledge that something which has lasted for two thousand years could be reexamined in the light of modern conditions and perhaps changed or improved upon requires courage and enlightenment, an absence of rigidity and orthodoxy that all great religions could benefit from.

    November 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply
    • john

      xtianity, Less then 1700 hundred years. That founding was through Constatine 325 ad

      November 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Reply
      • Robert Wakely

        That's a bit pedantic. No one was a Christian before Constantine?

        November 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  8. Yahweh

    A declaration of love from a Jewish priest and a Rabbi...Why am I not surprised?

    November 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  9. Luke

    "Fan" of the Pope? Ludicrous. The Pope is not an entertainer, a celebrity. Religion, any, is not a matter of fan-club mentality but rather of living one's faith oneself for others human and non-human. This Pope appears to be a good example of Christianity, applied Christianity not ideology alone. As such he can be a good example, but not a celebrity.

    November 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Reply
  10. Steven Colo

    Wonderful. For a bishop to discuss theology with a Jew shows the kind of open mindedness the church has needed for so long.

    November 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • Robert Wakely

      Oh, if only the Jews could be so open minded!

      November 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  11. Tony

    This article was just so poorly written. Talking of a Chilean Church when Pope Francis was from Argentina?
    The grammar and spelling is also lousy. If Francis has a Rabbi as a friend then it is a great step forward for the Catholic Church which I am a member. We need inter faith discussions.

    November 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Reply
    • Edward S

      The comparison with the Chilean Church was to contrast its far more robust criticisms of Pinochet as compared to the relationship between the Church in Argentina and the Junta there.

      November 7, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Reply
    • Robert Wakely

      Yes, but we must be careful of being corrupted by those who would destroy us.

      November 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  12. desert voice

    A great Pope, Francis! Here goes my preferred gaucho music for him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=admdT6qiL7A

    November 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  13. Tom Wittmann

    Even if agree that much of what Mr. Mick Krever tells here is accurate, also other much is what he represent as Cardenal Berdoglio's opinions is what he (Mick) would lLIKE to be.

    Religion must tell people what it believe is RIGHT, IF PEOPLE LIKES IT OR NOT, not what is "IN" The Church is not a political party!!!.

    November 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  14. Guillermo

    Pope Francis i GREAT

    November 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  15. john

    I am sorry that you are ignorant of the fact that NO Jew killed Yeshua ben Yoseph, but so were many others throughout history. That bible itself says that Herod was an Edomite. That is a person from the line of Esau. If you read the bible, you will find that the Esau and his line loved blood. Jews are from the line of Judah. There was Abraham, Isaac ( Who had Jacob/Israel and Esau ), Jacob had twelve sons, including Judah ( Jude/Jew ). Israel represents all the 12 tribes. The Edomites were defeated and the Jews forced them to convert to Judiasm. It was a mistake. Isaac prophesied that Esau would one day no longer be ruled over by his brother. Before the time of Jesus, Herod, his father ruled over the land of Judia and that came under Roman rule as well. Herod the greats sons, also ruled after their father. This is the same man that tried to kill Jesus when he was a baby. Herod being the king, appointed his Edomite priests ( converted ) and religious rulers who later condemned Jesus. Do you remember that Jesus said that they were NOT Jews at all? That not even Abraham was their father? So, the lie of history that Jews had anything to do with Jesus death, is just that a lie. Just like it was a lie, that Jews poisoned wells and caused the black black. Just like it is a lie, that they hold Gazans in prison. No one ever mentions the Egyptian army that locks thes terrorists and block-aids them in as well. Why? Read the local papers in the country in the area. Egyptian solders are killed all the time by these terrorists, it is a mess. Weapons still get in. Egypt and Israel both gave up the land of Gaza and they are both being killed because of it. 16,000 rockets have landed in Israel from Gaza since they gave it up. It is time to stop lying about the Jews. He who lies about them and spreads false rumors is just as guilty as those who burned them at the stake and hung them.

    November 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  16. swej kcuf

    Faith never will bring em together. A game yes

    Let us all opposites together and see which game they click with.

    November 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  17. terminaldogma75

    Bringing them together, the beautiful game it seems is also quite rightly called the world game as well...bring on Brazil 2014.

    November 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  18. NorthVanCan

    Why are we so surprised by people having friends of different faiths ?
    Well, maybe cuz most of todays conflicts run along religious divides.

    November 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Reply
    • Robert Wakely

      I disagree. Most wars are about power and greed.

      November 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  19. JOSE MARI MATEO

    Mahal Ko, Mahal Kita ,Mahal Na Mahal , " HAPPY BiRTH DAY "

    November 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  20. JOSE MARI MATEO and TRICIA ZAFRA

    "' WiLL YOU MARRY ME "

    November 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  21. whitewidow

    Jesuits.

    November 7, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  22. Aqueous3

    I can assure you that Francis has been elevated to his role as Pope in order to prepare the faithful for the coming events that will not dwell on the past but promote forgiveness in order to insure an inclusive future for all
    Y.Words are just that recollections and speculation about past present and future events. Use the written word in all the Holy books as a guide to how to conduct ourselves and temptations to avoid.

    I have had several visions witnessed and been involved with many miracles and have been mentoed by my brethren Jesus. Constant conversations with God assure me that we are close to the new beginning promised and only God controls the timeline. Salvation is at hand for not just Christians it is at hand for all who are willing to follow ten rules,understand the three part equation of life.honor the seven sacraments and perfect the exercise of forgiveness as God commands.

    Francis is nothing more than a shepard tending his flock but concerned more about those who have wandered away or worst yet lost. God motivates him as he does me. You see we will all play a role in the upcoming "Refinement"

    November 8, 2013 at 5:28 am | Reply
  23. JS

    The fact that priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, is Catholicism 101. There's nothing even remarkable, much less revolutionary, about Francis pointing that out. Let that serve as an index of the religious IQ of this article.

    November 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Reply
    • JS

      The first two sentences are quite true, but the last one is, on reflection, unfairly critical. My apologies to the author.

      November 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • Yavin

      Why are there so many reports about children being abused by catholic priests? Such are cardinal sins.

      November 12, 2013 at 2:39 am | Reply
  24. Catholic4Life

    Reblogged this on Catholic4Life.

    November 9, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
  25. Marty

    what's a "pope" I never read in the Bible Peter being a "pope".

    November 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Reply
    • Auntie Efua

      Pope means 'papa' or 'father'. It is a term of endearment for the successor of St. Peter, vicar of Jesus Christ.

      December 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Reply
  26. Yavin

    Yes and his heart in the Vatican City bank account.

    November 12, 2013 at 2:36 am | Reply
  27. Daba

    Invite someone to the Maryland Miracle Crusade @ Baltimore Convention Center on 16th & 17th, November 2013- 4:00 Pm EST. daily.

    November 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Reply
  28. Daba

    Maryland Miracle Crusade::Invite someone to the Maryland Miracle Crusade @ Baltimore Convention Center on 16th & 17th, November 2013- 4:00 Pm EST. daily.

    November 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  29. Daba

    Keep this date open and do all you can to attend..............Invite someone to the Maryland Miracle Crusade @ Baltimore Convention Center on 16th & 17th, November 2013- 4:00 Pm EST. daily.

    November 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  30. Ujay

    Pope, Rabbi, Jew, Gentile.We will all stand before our maker to give account of how we have followed the dictates of our conscience. that is caled judgement. But before then let us respect the one that has been chosen.His name is POPE FRANCIS

    November 13, 2013 at 9:18 am | Reply
  31. EMEKA

    God bless pope Francis

    November 14, 2013 at 3:46 am | Reply
  32. michael joseph

    Jews,gentile,greek,christians are,categories that must be replaced slowly with humans,the rejected,starving etc. There is a Jesus,a God beyond books and history,beyond rites and rituals,above churches and christianity a jesus who has nothing to do with those who killed him, (He forgave them) A jesus who went up so that all can feel him even as the sun.Pay more attention to him and he will solve many of our kiddy problems from within us.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Reply
  33. devent

    the present pope is Heaven sent.he will be next Christ.until the great dialectical process beyond our life time ,we are blessed that this happened in our existence.we will be witness to the greatest theological revolutionary of the greatest millenium when we will be totaal united in direct communication with God starting on his Papacy until thousands of years from now

    November 27, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply

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