By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church’s World Youth Day is unfolding in Panama City around Pope Francis, with thousands of young people from around the world participating in various events.
One of the numerous venues where young people are gathering is the Jewish synagogue of Panama City, which speaks volumes about the close friendship between Jews and Christians in the Central American nation.
To find more about this “strong and vibrant collaboration” between the two communities, Seán-Patrick Lovett spoke to the Jewish Rabbi of Panama City, Gustavo Kraselnik, whose synagogue is hosting a group of 50 young participants in the WYD.
Rabbi Kraselnik said that this friendship is not surprising as it comes to them naturally, not just with Catholics but with all religions. Panama being a small country, they know each other well.
The rabbi pointed out that Jewish-Catholic relations have greatly improved since Vatican II. In the last 15 to 20 years, Jews and Catholics in Panama began to visit, meet and talk to each other more frequently, to build a relationship based on respect and joining hands in good works.
Rabbi Kraselnik said that in their neighbourhood, Jews talked with the parish of St. Lucas Parish to host a group of WYD participants in their synagogue.
The rabbi said that relations between religious communities depend on how much hope religious leaders bring in their ecumenical or inter-faith dialogue, especially in moments of crisis and tension such as the period of dictatorship in Panama. This, he said, benefits society.
With Panama a mosaic of diversity, Rabbi Kraselnik said inter-religious friendship is only natural.