It is with sadness that I learned of the passing of Fr. Edward H. Flannery, my predecessor as director for Catholic-Jewish relations for the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1967-76. He was one of the pioneers of Catholic-Jewish dialogue. His book, The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-three Centuries of Anti-Semitism (Paulist Press), was written at the time of the Second Vatican Council and has been continuously in print ever since then.
When I first met Fr. Flannery in 1973 at the National Workshop for Catholic-Jewish Relations (later, "Christian-Jewish Relations") he was already well-known for having blazed the trail that my own life's work was to follow. I must admit that I met him with some awe not only at his accomplishments but at the deep sense of spiritual "centeredness" one felt in him. It was a feeling that never passed away. Truly, there was a touch of greatness about him. It was a touch that was needed, I know. The Second Vatican Council's declaration, Nostra Aetate, could not have been implemented as well as it has without Fr. Flannery's inspired guidance in those early, crucial years. We who work in the field today owe him more than we can ever express. At the Third National Workshop in 1977 in Detroit we gave him the first award given by the Workshops. He was to receive many more, richly deserved awards over the years.
Perhaps the best way for us to remember Fr. Flannery is by continuing his efforts to bring together in reconciliation the Catholic Church and the Jewish People, who at the time he began his vocation in this work had been estranged, by and large, for many centuries. Here in America, as Fr. Flannery used to say, we have a unique opportunity to move forward the process of healing since we enjoy the world's largest Jewish community alongside a healthy Catholic community.
May his name be a blessing for us all!
Dr. Eugene J. Fisher
Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs