Former chief Rome Rabbi Elio Toaff died on Sunday the age of 99, two weeks before what was supposed to be his 100th birthday.
He served as chief rabbi of the city for 51 years until 2002 after having served as the chief rabbi of Venice.
Rabbi Toaff, born on April 30 1915 in Livorno, was the Chief Rabbi of Rome from 1951 to 2002. In 1947 Toaff served as a rabbi in Venice and in 1951 became the Chief Rabbi of Rome. One of his children is Israeli-Italian professor Ariel Toaff.
On May 17th 2012 he was awarded the Prize Culturae within the Italian National Festival of Cultures in Pisa.
Upon the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Rabbi 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.”
Rabbi Toaff remained friends with Pope 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.