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Rabbi, pope exchange blessings

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Pope Benedict XVI was blessed by a rabbi -- and blessed him back -- Thursday in Brazil.

The pope met Reform Rabbi Henry Sobel and other religious leaders during a five-day visit to Sao Paulo.

"With deep humility, I asked for a blessing and was blessed. I also asked for the pope's permission to bless him and was authorized to do so," Sobel said. "I'm feeling very light. It's not everyday that a rabbi gets a blessing from the pope."

Sobel called Benedict "a friend of the Jewish people" who "understands the importance of the interdependence of Christian and Jewish traditions."

With more than 30 years at the helm of Latin America's largest shul -- the 2,000-family CIP -- Sobel gained a strong reputation as a defender of human rights during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and is well known in Brazil for attempting to strengthen relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Lately he has been in the news after he was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting on a visit to Florida.

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