Pope, Obama extend Passover greetings to Jews worldwide
As Jews sit at Seder table, Pope Francis wishes they remain 'free from all evil'; Obama, who will be hosting his fifth Seder at the White House, says 'responsibility does not end when we reach the Promised Land, it only begins'
WASHINGTON – Pope Francis and US President Barack Obama
extended their wishes to the world's Jews as they began their week-long celebration of Passover
In a message to Rome's chief rabbi and his followers, the pope said he hoped "that the Almighty, who freed his people from slavery in Egypt
by guiding them to the Holy Land, continues to free them from all evil and accompany them with his blessing."
The passage refers to the Book of Exodus, the second book of the Hebrew bible, which recounts the origins of Passover as the Jews fled Egypt by crossing the Red Sea to reach the Promised Land.
In his message to Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, the pope
said "I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you my prayer, confident of being able to deepen the bonds of mutual respect and friendship."
Since his papal appointment on March 13, Pope Francis has reached out to the Jewish community on several occasions.
Obama's Passover message from last year
A large delegation of rabbis attended the pontificate's inaugural mass on March 19, underscoring the strong ties between the two religions.
President Obama, who recently returned to Washington after visiting Israel,
the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, extended his wishes as well. "As we prepare for our fifth Seder in the White House, Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Passover here in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world.
"Tonight, Jewish families will gather with family and friends to celebrate with songs, wine, and food. They will read from the Haggadah, and retell the story that makes this holiday so powerful," the US leader's statement read.
Celebrating Passover in Nepal (Photo: AFP)
Addressing his visit to the Middle East last week, Obama said "I visited the State of Israel for the third time, my first as president. I reaffirmed our countries' unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu
and President (Shimon) Peres. I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region, and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from Hatikvah, lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu, 'To be a free people in our land.'
"Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the Promised Land, it only begins," said the American president.
"As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continuing the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach."
President Obama will continue his tradition of hosting a Passover Seder with family and White House staff. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that this year's celebration will include a Seder plate that was given as a gift to first lady Michelle Obama by Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the Israeli prime minister.
Obama is the first American president to observe Passover in the White House. The tradition began in 2008, when three young staffers held a Seder meal while on the campaign trail and then-senator Obama surprised them by dropping in.