Elio Toaff

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Elio Toaff (on left) with former Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro in 2007.

Elio Toaff (30 April 1915 – 19 April 2015) was the Chief Rabbi of Rome from 1951 to 2002. He served as a rabbi in Venice from 1947, and in 1951 became the Chief Rabbi of Rome.

One of his children is Israeli-Italian professor Ariel Toaff.

On 17 May 2012 he was awarded the Prize Culturae within the Italian National Festival of Cultures in Pisa.

Toaff died on 19 April 2015, 11 days before his 100th birthday.[1]

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, Toaff's successor as Chief Rabbi of Rome:

To Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Rome:

I would like to express my heartfelt participation in mourning, together with his family, and the entire Jewish community here in the capital of Rome, for the demise of the former longtime Chief Rabbi of Rome, Professor Dr. Elio Toaff, long the distinguished spiritual leader of the Jews of Rome.

The protagonist of Italian civil and Jewish history in recent decades, he knew how to overcome divisions, and both of our communities had a common esteem and appreciation for his moral authority, together with a deep humanity.

I remember with gratitude his generous commitment and sincere willingness to promote dialogue and fraternal relations between Jews and Catholics; during his tenure our communities saw a significant moment in this regard, in his memorable encounter with my esteemed predecessor Saint Pope John Paul II, at the Chief Synagogue of Rome.

I raise prayers to the most high God the Father, full of love and fidelity, to welcome him into his Kingdom of peace.

From the Vatican, April 20, 2015,

Franciscus Pp.[2][3]

Jewish-Catholic relations[edit]

Upon the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Toaff, as Chief Rabbi of Rome, paid tribute to the late pontiff, saying: "Jews will always remember what the Catholic Church did for them by order of the pope during the Second World War. When the war was raging, Pius spoke out very often to condemn the false race theory."[4]

On 13 April 1986, Toaff was greeted by, and prayed with, Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, the first by a reigning pope to a Jewish house of worship. On April 7, 1994, Toaff co-officiated at the Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah at the Sala Nervi in Vatican City, along with Pope John Paul II, and the President of Italy Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

Rabbi Toaff remained friends with John Paul until the pontiff's death, and attended his funeral. He was one of the two people who the pope mentioned in his last will and testament, in which he stated: “How can I fail to remember the rabbi of Rome, and the numerous representatives of non-Christian religions?” The only other living person to be named was John Paul’s longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.[5]


  • Perfidi giudei, fratelli maggiori, 1987