Pope Emails Response To Man's Quest For God Despite Tragedy

Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress and a law professor specializing in genocide and war crimes, sent a personal note to Pope Francis on how it is possible to still believe in God after the horrors of the Holocaust. Rosensaft speaks with host Rachel Martin about the email he received from the pope.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you write a letter to the pope, chances are you don't necessarily expect to hear back. Well, Menachem Rosensaft did write a letter to the pope, and he got a reply. Rosensaft is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, and a professor of law specializing in genocide and war crimes. He's also the son of two Holocaust survivors.

And last month, he sent Pope Francis a copy of a recent sermon he gave on how faith in God is possible in light of the horrors of the Holocaust. Professor Rosensaft received an email back from the pope. He joins us now to talk about that unusual bit of communication. Welcome to the program, Professor.

MENACHEM ROSENSAFT: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Were you surprised?

ROSENSAFT: I was extremely - I was not just surprised, I was deeply gratified and extremely humbled. To someone who is not a theologian, and who has struggled for most of my life trying to reconcile the fact that virtually my parents' entire families - including my mother's parents, my mother's first husband, my mother's 5-and-a-half-year-old son, and all my parents' siblings - were murdered in the gas chambers - God was indeed present, but not in the perpetrators. But God was indeed present in those victims who refused to allow themselves to be dehumanized; like my mother, who together with other women inmates, managed to keep 149 Jewish children alive. And I believe that the divine presence was within every non-Jew who tried to save the life of a Jew.

MARTIN: What did Pope Francis write in his response to you?

ROSENSAFT: Well, the actual text was: (Reading) When you, with humility, are telling us where God was in that moment, I felt within me that you had transcended all possible explanation and that after a long pilgrimage - sometimes sad, tedious or dull - you came to discover a certain logic. And it is from there that you were speaking to us. The logic of 1 Kings 19:12, the logic of that gentle breeze - I know that it is a very poor translation of the rich Hebrew expression that constitutes the only possible Hermeneutic interpretation. Thank you from my heart, and please do not forget to pray for me. May the Lord bless you.

MARTIN: Professor Menachem Rosensaft is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress. Thank you so much for talking with us.

ROSENSAFT: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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