WASHINGTON (June 8, 2006)--The spring 2006 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 Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. After the meeting the following communique was issued:
The spring 2006 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 May 22, 2006 at Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City.
The morning session began with prayer and a moment of silence for the memory of the great pioneer of Catholic-Jewish relations in this country, Sr. Rose Thering, O.P., who died in May at 84. The session was devoted to an illuminating discussion of "Mutual Borrowings over the Centuries." Fr. Francis Tiso, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, presented an overview of the topic in the context of what the Catholic Church has learned about the Jews and the history and theology of its relationship with them since the Second Vatican Council's declaration, Nostra Aetate, in 1965. Professor Byron Sherwin of the Spertus College of Judaica in Chicago focused more narrowly on the influence of Christianity and Islam on Jewish mystical tradition in Spain, in the Zohar and through it on Hassidic mysticism in late centuries.
Topics of mutual concern, such as the Middle East, were discussed in the afternoon. Both groups gave a very positive evaluation of the first year of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, and shared hopes for the upcoming visit of the Pope to Poland and to Auschwitz. Concerns were expressed about the anti-Catholic, even anti-religious implications of the movie, "The Da Vinci Code," and the way in which the 3rd century scroll, "The Gospel of Judas," was released by National Geographic. Several urged that we engage directly with the media to educate them to "get it right" on religious matters. The ongoing problem of pornography, especially on the internet, and its corrosive effect on the values of our youth, was raised. We stressed that we are witnessing the cheapening of sex in our society and are not enforcing the law properly in curbing what has become a very big business. Catholic and Jewish perspectives on the immigration crisis were shared. Catholics and Jews in general see much of the opposition to contemporary immigration through the historical lens of the Nativist and Know-nothing movements which so bitterly opposed previous generations of Catholic and Jewish immigrants, limiting their numbers harshly in favor of immigration from Protestant and Northern European applicants. In discussing immigration, several underscored the moral and humane aspects of this thorny issue.
Jewish Participants: Rabbis Joel Zaiman (co-chair), Moses Birnbaum, Ruth Langer, Byron Sherwin, Dan Polish, Shira Lander, Henry Michelman, Mr. Jack Stein and Mrs. Judith Hertz. Staff: Rabbi Gil Rosenthal
Catholic Participants: Cardinal William Keeler (co-chair); Bishop Basil Losten; Revs. Guy Massie, James Massa, Francis Tiso, Charles Parr, Robert Alfieri, Robert Stern, Drew Christiansen, Lawrence Frizzell. Staff: Dr. Eugene Fisher.