WASHINGTON (December 20, 2005)—The fall 2005 meeting of the twice-yearly Consultation between delegates of the National Council of Synagogues and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs was held recently at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore. After the meeting the following communique was issued:
The fall 2005 meeting of the twice-yearly Consultation between delegates of the National Council of Synagogues and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs took place on November 2 at St. Mary's Seminary and University. The morning session was devoted to an exchange of information on ongoing matters of serious concern to both communities, such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, efforts to implement fully the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the State of Israel and the Holy See.
The afternoon session, open to the public, was devoted to a celebration of the historic declaration of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate ("In Our Time") which revolutionized Catholic understandings of Jews and Judaism, which was issued on October 28, 1965. Such celebrations have been taking place in dioceses around the United States, and indeed the world, most notably in Rome and Jerusalem. Major scholarly dialogues have been held in numerous Catholic Universities and Centers of Jewish-Christian learning. Speaking at the event in Baltimore, Cardinal Keeler gave not only the essence of the document but also personal reminiscences of being, as a young priest, a peritus ("theological expert") at the Council itself, and more recently of the Conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI, whom he described as a holy man both "sweet and clear" in his person and in his teaching. Cardinal Keeler also unveiled for the group an exhibit of artifacts of the Conclave.
In response to concerns from the Jewish side about a recent article by an eminent Catholic theologian that seemed to step back from the Church's commitment to the ongoing nature of God's covenant with the Jews, Cardinal Keeler responded that we are in a new age and Pope Benedict XVI has reaffirmed John Paul II's teachings and the Church's stand on this matter.
Professor Byron Sherwin of Spertus College of Judaica delivered a stimulating and provocative paper on the need for the Jewish community, in the light of the Catholic Church's reappraisal of its theological understanding of Judaism, to reappraise its own historic attitude toward the Church and Christianity, replacing its largely defensive posture with a positive assessment of the spiritual reality and integrity of Christianity from a Jewish point of view.
In the evening, after a tour of the seminary library and archives, a group of Jewish friends of the Cardinal from over the years joined the Consultation members in honoring His Eminence on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Jewish Participants: Rabbis Joel Zaiman (co-chair), Shira Lander, Ruth Langer, David Sandmel, Harry Danzinger, A. Nathan Abramowitz, Alvin Berkun, Naomi Greenspan, Jeffrey Wohlberg, Byron Sherwin, Judith Hertz, and Mark Pelavin, Staff: Rabbi Gil Rosenthal.
Catholic Participants: Cardinal William Keeler (co-chair); Bishops John Nienstedt and Dennis Madden; Reverends Lawrence Frizzell, James Loughran, and Charles Parr. Staff: Dr. Eugene Fisher.