Pope Francis lives with mind in heaven and feet on earth, says Rabbi friend

(CNN) One of Pope Francis’ dearest friends is none other than a Jewish Rabbi.

And Rabbi Abahram Skorka, who has known Pope Francis for 15 years, since he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, has a concise description of what makes Francis’ papacy different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger.

Pope Francis “lives with his mind in heaven and with his feet on Earth,” Rabbi Skorka told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday. “And Ratzinger lived totally in heaven.”

Abraham Skorka, a prominent Argentine rabbi, has had frank and open conversations with Pope Francis since he was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. Those discussions are the topic of a book written by both, “On Heaven and Earth.”

Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio formed their friendship, the rabbi said, over that most beloved of traditions: soccer.

“The beginning was through jokes,” Rabbi Skorka said. “But behind the jokes … [I] understood then that he sent me a message: ‘I open my heart.’”

Since then, their friendship has been one of not only jokes, but deep theological thought.

Pope Francis has proved, from his first day as the Bishop of Rome, that his will be a different papacy: One that emphasizes humility and deep analysis, not pomp or dogma.

And from their 15-year-long relationship, Rabbi Skorka drew evidence of just how true that was.

On the issue of priestly celibacy, Cardinal Bergolgio in the book says, “It is an issue of discipline, not faith.”

“He told me, look, I receive this tradition, but I know this is not a dogma,” Rabbi Skorka told Amanpour. “This is just a tradition and maybe that in the future it could be changed.” [More]