Pope Benedict XVI made a brief but symbolically important visit to a synagogue in New York City tonight. The visit, to the Park East Synagogue, was added just weeks before the pope's arrival in the United States, as was another brief meeting with Jewish leaders during the first leg of his visit in Washington.
This is only the third time a pope has ever visited a synagogue. Pope John Paul II led the way by visiting the Rome synagogue in 1986. Pope Benedict visited the synagogue in Cologne, Germany, in 2005.
The pope only spent about 20 minutes, was serenaded by children and delivered an eight-sentence greeting. Here's the heart of it:
"I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this. ... I know that the Jewish community make a valuable contribution to the life of the city, and I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood."
He offered good wishes for the Jewish community as it prepares to celebrate Passover on April 20.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier told the German pope that his visit was a historic moment "that will be recorded in history forever."
"Both of us have experienced the ravages of war, the holocaust ... but also the joys of freedom," he said. He also told the pope he had the angelic face of a cherub.
The pope gave the rabbi a 15th century Jewish manuscript from the Vatican Library. The rabbi gave the pope a seder plate, which is used in the Passover celebration, and a box of mazza bread. The pope said he'd eat it tomorrow night.