The Bishop and the Synagogue of Rome

Category: Season 3

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L. Scott Lerner

Franklin & Marshall College

L. Scott Lerner has been on the faculty of Franklin & Marshall since 1995 and has served as Chair of the Department of French and Italian, the Program in Comparative Literary Studies, and the Program in Judaic Studies. Before coming to Franklin & Marshall, he served as a lecturer at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and taught briefly at the Université de Paris VII and Ministère des Affaires Etrangères in Paris. He also taught in the Literature Concentration, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Core Program at Harvard. At Franklin & Marshall he teaches courses in the Italian, French, Comparative Literature, Judaic Studies, and Connections programs

Despite recent talk about a “Judeo-Christian” tradition, the historical divide between Judaism and Christianity is ancient and deep. Nowhere has this separation been more starkly visible than in Rome, seat of the Catholic Church and home to an even older if far smaller Jewish community.

Lerner guides the audience through the visible signs of a radically evolving relationship between Christians and Jews in the modern era. In particular, he interprets the unprecedented visit in 1986 by a Bishop of Rome—Pope John Paul II—to the Great Synagogue built on the site of the former ghetto. This real and symbolic encounter set in motion a major realignment of two pillars of western civilization, enabling each to remain faithful to itself while making space within itself for the other.

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