Two faiths, one goal: Lord Sacks at the Vatican
Against a backdrop of the brilliant white stucco, stone and deep pink silk wallpaper, I first became aware of the meeting of minds between Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, to give him his full title.
We were in the plush Waldegrave Drawing Room at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, on the second day of the Pope's visit to Britain in September last year and I was watching the two leaders sharing a few private moments together before the Chief Rabbi formally welcomed the Pope to an interreligious meeting with representatives of non-Christian faiths. Some 15 months later the two men were sharing another few intimate moments, this time in the much more opulent surroundings of the papal apartment in the Vatican at the end of an audience with Pope Benedict, when all advisers withdrew leaving the two leaders to speak unmonitored.
After their encounter at St Mary's, Lord Sacks said that "soul touched soul across the boundaries of faith and there was a blessed moment of meeting". On 12 December the Chief Rabbi described his historic tête-à-tête with the Pope as warm, gentle and spiritual. It was, as he said afterwards, simply "a beautiful moment"