The kitchen of Pope Francis’ Vatican residence was made kosher for a day last week, as the pontiff hosted a delegation of rabbis from his native Argentina.
The gesture was a sign of the close personal relationship between Francis and the Jewish community, and continued efforts to strengthen the institutional relationship between Jews and the Church.
The delegation was led by Francis’ good friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka, head of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary. When the current pope, who was born and lived in Buenos Aires, was still known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he co-authored a book on faith with Skorka.
The Vatican has secured kosher food for visiting delegates before. But for this occasion, the Church brought in the staff of popular Roman kosher restaurant Ba’ Ghetto to prepare four courses of Roman Jewish specialties right in a kitchen at the Vatican hotel, where the pontiff resides. Francis famously declined the luxurious papal residence to live closer to others in a lodging house.
The kitchen was kashered by Rabbi Jaakov Spizzichino of Rome, who blasted the oven with heat, boiled utensils, and covered countertops to assure compliance with dietary laws.
The menu consisted of baked sardines, grilled zucchini, two kinds of pasta, and the traditional fried artichokes “Jewish style.” The main course options centered on fish, which is naturally kosher–but many of the guests from the beef-heavy nation opted for the filet with wine reduction.
Israeli-born co-owner Amit Dabush said the pope was particularly fond of the pistachio mousse, which was made with a soy-based creamer imported from Israel.
The visit was part of the Church’s Day of Judaism, which was established in the 1990’s to promote Catholic-Jewish dialogue.