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Longtime Rome chief rabbi, resistance leader who welcomed John Paul at synagogue, dies at 99

  • FILE -- In this March 16, 1998, Italy's Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff adjusts his yarmulke during a press conference in Rome. Elio Toaff died in Rome, Sunday, April 19 2015 at the age of 99, ANSA Italian news agency reported. (AP Photo/Mario Cassetta)

    FILE -- In this March 16, 1998, Italy's Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff adjusts his yarmulke during a press conference in Rome. Elio Toaff died in Rome, Sunday, April 19 2015 at the age of 99, ANSA Italian news agency reported. (AP Photo/Mario Cassetta)  (The Associated Press)

  • The coffin of Rome's former chief Rabbi Elio Toaff is carried into Rome's Synagogue to laid out in state, Monday, April 0, 2015. Rabbi Elio Toaff died in Rome Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the age of 99. (Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT

    The coffin of Rome's former chief Rabbi Elio Toaff is carried into Rome's Synagogue to laid out in state, Monday, April 0, 2015. Rabbi Elio Toaff died in Rome Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the age of 99. (Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • The president of the Roman Jewish community Riccardo Pacifici reads from a book as the coffin of Rome's former chief Rabbi Elio Toaff is carried into Rome's Synagogue, Monday, April 0, 2015. Rabbi Elio Toaff died in Rome Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the age of 99. (Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT

    The president of the Roman Jewish community Riccardo Pacifici reads from a book as the coffin of Rome's former chief Rabbi Elio Toaff is carried into Rome's Synagogue, Monday, April 0, 2015. Rabbi Elio Toaff died in Rome Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the age of 99. (Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT  (The Associated Press)

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.