VATICAN CITY — A few hours before Rome's Jewish community was to begin its Passover observances, Pope Francis sent a brief note praying that God would bless them and asking community members for their prayers.
"May the Almighty, who freed his people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to free you from every evil and accompany you with his blessing," the pope said in the message delivered March 25.
Passover, the eight-day commemoration of God freeing the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, was set to begin that evening.
Thanking Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, for attending his inaugural Mass March 19 and a meeting with religious leaders the next day, Pope Francis said, "I am particularly pleased to extend to you and the entire Rome community my most fervent wishes for the great Passover feast.
"I ask you to pray for me, while I assure you of my prayers for you, trusting that we can deepen the bonds of esteem and mutual respect," the pope said.
On the website of Rome's Jewish community, Rabbi di Segni said he appreciated the message and planned to respond with a message wishing the pope and Rome's Christians a happy Easter.