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BGU Delegation Meets the Pope

BGU Delegation Meets the Pope

July 14, 2016

Leadership, Awards & Events, Press Releases

Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), led an 11-member delegation to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and Vatican leadership in June. The delegation included senior officers of BGU’s international board, Americans for Ben-Gurion University’s leadership and BGU faculty. Prof. Carmi presented the pope with a special gift: a silver-bound copy of the New Testament with Jerusalem etched on its covers.


Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU); Ellen Marcus (TX), BGU board vice chair and board member of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Americans for Ben-Gurion University); Lloyd Goldman (NY), deputy chair of BGU’s board of governors and president of Americans for Ben-Gurion University; Alex Goren (NY), chair of BGU’s board and former Americans for Ben-Gurion University president shake hands with Pope Francis.

Prof. Carmi remarked, “We are grateful for the opportunity to have offered a token of our esteem to Pope Francis and to have met with Cardinals Koch and Tauran. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is a natural partner for interreligious encounters. Located in Abraham’s city, our researchers contribute significantly on topics that are of utmost interest both to the Vatican and to the Holy Land. We would welcome future collaborations, which I hope will come about as a result of our visit.”

Dr. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, an expert on the literature of the Christian monastic order during the Rabbinic period remarked, “The meetings were fascinating; we presented BGU’s research achievements on Christianity and Prof. Hames proposed to Cardinal Koch that he accept the Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award at the University.”

Cardinal Kurt Koch is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and in this capacity is also the president of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews. Following the receipt of a formal letter of invitation by Prof. Carmi upon returning to Israel, the cardinal agreed to accept the award. The ceremony will take place at the University at a date still to be determined in 2017. Past recipients of the award included Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of England and the Dalai Lama.

Commenting on the meeting with the cardinal, Doron Krakow, Americans for Ben-Gurion University executive vice president observed, “Cardinal Koch acknowledged that there is growing anti-Semitism around the world and that elements of that growth have religious roots. He noted Pope Francis’s recent comment, ‘It is impossible to be Christian and anti-Semitic,’ as an indication of the pope’s determination that the Catholic Church will play a constructive role in confronting the growing problem through a commitment to education, starting with young children.”

Alex Goren (NY), chair of BGU’s board of governors, suggested initiating collaboration between Gregorian University and BGU’s Departments of Jewish Thought and History with professors who study interfaith relations and conversion, such as the two faculty members present.

“The main consensus of the meetings was the importance of education in order to create a future where members of different religions could live side by side in peace,” said Goren.

The BGU delegation also met with Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which includes the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. “His remarks were surprisingly candid,” said Krakow.

The cardinal indicated that they were absorbed by Islam due to the near daily instances of Islamic terror. “With regard to the glacial pace of progress, he said that they are ‘condemned to dialogue,’ meaning that progress is modest and he described it as a ‘long journey.’ ”

“The cardinal described the dialogue between Christians and Jews as very comfortable, as we are ‘part of the same family and sing the same Psalms,’ ” Krakow said.

Prof. Carmi and three senior members of BGU’s board of governors were honored with front row seats during the pope’s weekly address: Alex Goren (NY), chair of BGU’s board of governors and former Americans for Ben-Gurion University president; Lloyd Goldman (NY), deputy chair of BGU’s board and president of Americans for Ben-Gurion University; and Ellen Marcus (TX), BGU board vice chair and Americans for Ben-Gurion University board member.

Other members of the delegation included Americans for Ben-Gurion University Executive Vice President Doron Krakow; David Breslauer (TX); Stephen Breslauer (TX); Harvey Malyn (TX); Asher Heled, chair of BGU’s executive committee; Prof. Haim Hames; and Dr. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal. The BGU delegation was graciously hosted by Zion Evrony, ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, who accompanied the group throughout their visit.

Prof. Haim Hames, incoming dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is the director of BGU’s Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters, and Dr. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal holds the Rosen Family Career Development Chair in Judaic Studies in BGU’s Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought.


By supporting a world-class academic institution that not only nurtures the Negev, but also shares its expertise locally and globally, Americans for Ben-Gurion University engages a community of Americans who are committed to improving the world. David Ben-Gurion envisioned that Israel’s future would be forged in the Negev. The cutting-edge research carried out at Ben-Gurion University drives that vision by sustaining a desert Silicon Valley, with the “Stanford of the Negev” at its center. The Americans for Ben-Gurion University movement supports a 21st century unifying vision for Israel by rallying around BGU’s remarkable work and role as an apolitical beacon of light in the Negev desert.

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev embraces the endless potential we have as individuals and as a commonality to adapt and to thrive in changing environments. Inspired by our location in the desert, we aim to discover, to create, and to develop solutions to dynamic challenges, to pose questions that have yet to be asked, and to push beyond the boundaries of the commonly accepted and possible.

We are proud to be a central force for inclusion, diversity and innovation in Israel, and we strive to extend the Negev’s potential and our entrepreneurial spirit throughout the world. For example, the multi-disciplinary School for Sustainability and Climate Change at BGU leverages over 50 years of expertise on living and thriving in the desert into scalable solutions for people everywhere.

BGU at a glance:  

20,000 students | 800 senior faculty | 3 campuses | 6 faculties: humanities & social sciences, health sciences, engineering sciences, natural sciences, business & management, and desert research.


Media Contact:

Brian Sherry

Stern Strategy Group


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