United States: Jewish-Catholic meeting

Source: FSSPX News


A dozen cardinals have been invited to New York by Jewish teachers and intellectuals from around the world to strengthen Jewish-Catholic dialogue, January 19 and 20, on the theme: “Which is the first of the commandments?”

The orthodox rabbis are the source of this initiative. Touched by the pope’s visit to Jerusalem in 2000, and particularly by his prayer at the Wailing Wall, the Jews intended to place this meeting in the spirit of dialogue and respect, of which John Paul II has made himself the promoter during his 25 years as pope.

Amongst the cardinals invited were the French cardinals Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, and Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyons, accompanied by the president of the French Bishops Conference, Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux. From the United States, the archbishops of Chicago and Washington Francis Eugene George and Theodore Edgar McCarrick; from Austria, the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, from India Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay, and from Angola, the archbishop emeritus of Luanda, Alexander Do Nascimento.

During 2003, Cardinal Lustiger was already on the spot, accompanied by a dozen priests of the diocese of Paris. The experience had already proved convincing, the French episcopate confirmed, and they emphasized the “original and surprising” aspect of this new initiative. In fact, these “yeshivots” belong to an orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jewish movement, little inclined to dialogue with Christians.

On the Jewish side, many chief rabbis also participated at this meeting and among them was the chief rabbi of Brazil, Henry Sobil, the former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, and the Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine, Yaakov Bleich. The Chief Rabbi Sobil was at the Vatican on January 17, in order to participate in the “concert of reconciliation” between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, took part indirectly in the congress, as did cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the pontifical household. Their speeches were pre-recorded and broadcast during the meeting.

Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for the introduction and cardinal Cottier asked the question: “Is love an attribute of God?” Amongst others were the following questions: “What are the limits of love towards God?” “What are the limits of love towards our neighbor? Can we love our enemies?” “What are the limits of the love God has for us?” “Can we love God without loving our neighbor?”, or again, “Is love a part of obedience?”

In a declaration published on this occasion, they wrote, “We Catholics and Jews, aware of our differences, are keen to affirm that our fellowship is stronger than what separates us”. The message went on: “Assuming our responsibilities, inherited from Mount Sinai, in faithfulness to our different traditions, we wish to make an appeal to the world: universal religious fraternity must be established. It constitutes a prerequisite for peace and for fidelity to our Creator”.

If the ceremony at Ground Zero, on the site of the September 11 attack, constituted a highlight of the symposium, what most profoundly touched the participants was the meeting of two different worlds, Catholic and Jewish who, up to then, had had virtually no contact. Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, had this to say at the start of his speech: “The event – it is that this meeting is happening at all” Earlier, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, also appreciated the significance of the event. “This meeting, which seemed impossible, is a gift from God,” he said, before adding: “What we are experiencing ties up the threads of the history of the Western world, and probably of all humanity”.

The cardinals and archbishops were able to visit the Yeshiva University of New York, a top place for studies and talmudic formation for Orthodox Jews, which numbers 7,000 students.

“We will pursue the intensification of dialogue on two levels. On the global level, we will be counting on the leaders of the Catholic Church and Jewish leaders of the entire world. On the local level, we will seek in this spirit to heighten the communities’ awareness in order to pursue this dialogue at grass roots level, in respect and mutual support”, the participants affirmed at the close of their meeting.

The visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the site of the September 11 attack provoked “a particular emotion” in the participants of the symposium. In visiting Ground Zero, they not only evoked this attack, but resolved “to strive, through dialogue, to build a world where there would never again be recourse to such horrible crimes”.

In this declaration, Catholic and Jewish leaders expressed their “consternation” at the growth of anti-Semitism. With Pope John Paul II, they affirmed that anti-Semitism constituted “a sin against God and against humanity”. The participants have committed themselves to pursue in their respective continents, the things which they had shared during the meeting, and have decided to consecrate their next meeting to religious peace in the world and to the fight against hatred and anti-Semitism.