South Florida rabbi meets with Pope Francis at Vatican

Journey to Vatican began 3 years ago for Rabbi Mario Rojzman

MIAMI – The journey to the Vatican began three years ago for Rabbi Mario Rojzman.

Rojzman visited Pope Francis, someone he knew back when they both lived in Argentina, on behalf of his friend, Bishop Justo Laguna, who passed away. The pope and rabbi prayed for Laguna together.

"And then I had the phenomenal experience, and I say it is very selfish if I keep this experience just for me," Rojzman said.

After coordinating with the Vatican, he organized a trip for 47 members of the Beth Torah Benny Rok campus to travel to Rome. The group sat in the front row, received the pope's blessing and then got to speak with the pope, explaining to him what makes their congregation unique.

"We are a diverse congregation of 800 families from all different backgrounds, from all different nations, many from South America," co-president Steve Scheck said. "The one thing that he told us was to make sure that we're taking care of the immigrants."

And then presented him with a gift: a yarmulke made with four symbols -- one symbol of the Vatican, the other of the congregation's logo, a peace dove, and a symbol of two hands shaking with an inscription.

"United, building bridges, knocking down walls," board member Fernando Schlaen said. "He had a face of appreciation, and really my stomach was -- really felt very sensitive about that."

Rojzman said the journey to the Vatican was much more than a trip, but a chance to show two religions coming together under one common bond.

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