Elio Toaff, the longtime chief rabbi of Rome who helped set Judaism and the Catholic Church on the path to reconciliation after centuries of distrust, has died at age 99.

Toaff died Sunday, the Jewish community announced, and Rome's main synagogue immediately opened its doors for those wishing to pay their respects.

Toaff took a historic step on the path of reconciliation when he welcomed St. John Paul II on the first-ever papal visit to a synagogue in 1986.

His willingness to engage in interfaith dialogue made him a privileged partner in the Vatican's efforts to reach out to Jews and other religions, and Toaff was one of only two living people mentioned in John Paul's will when the pontiff died in 2005. The other was the pope's personal secretary.