Rabbi Abraham Skorka met Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio at a Mass for a national holiday two decades ago.

They shook hands afterward, and “he looked deep into my eyes,” Rabbi Skorka recalled of the man who would be elected Pope Francis. “He told me, ‘I think this year we’re going to eat chicken soup.’”

The line referred to Argentine soccer. Rabbi Skorka backs the River Plate club, whose fans are commonly called “chickens” by rivals. Pope Francis supports the San Lorenzo club.

“I felt there was a meta-message: If you want to talk with me, the door is open. There are no protocols,” said Rabbi Skorka, rector of the Latin American rabbinical seminary in Buenos Aires and a leader in the country’s Jewish community. “I had the sense that this man wants to be a bridge.”

Soccer formed the initial bridge between the two religious leaders, but their bond went beyond sport and helped to bring Christians and Jews closer together after some episodes of less-than-cordial relations in Argentina.

Pope Francis now faces the challenge of improving relations between the two faiths on an international level.