WASHINGTON (May 2, 2007) — Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has received the Anti-Defamation League's Dr. Joseph L. Lichten Award.
Presented (April 29) during the ADL's annual Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference here, the award recognized Dr. Fisher's pioneering role in helping to promote and further dialogue between Catholics and Jews.
Eugene Fisher is the only full-time professional in charge of Catholic-Jewish relations in the United States. The ADL called him a central figure in the implementation of Nostra Aetate, Vatican Council II's "Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions," which recalled the bond linking Christians and Jews.
"His dedicated efforts over the past three decades have left us with a series of invaluable materials for the work of reconciliation between Catholics and Jews," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
Father James Massa, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued a statement noting the accomplishments of Dr. Fisher.
"Gene Fisher's career corresponds to a critical period in relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people," Father Massa said. "It fell to Gene and several of his close colleagues to interpret what Vatican II meant in recognizing the Jewish people as participants in a living covenant."
"As part of the post-Vatican II generation that forged lasting bonds of friendship between Catholics and Jews, Gene proved to be an outstanding advisor to the American bishops as well as to the Holy See," Father Massa stated. "With honesty and theological insight, Gene more than anyone else could represent the concerns of both communities in moments of tension and heartache. His wisdom often translated into a solution that both sides could embrace and acknowledge as a basis for deepening cooperation.
"Whether we are speaking of Pope John Paul II's visit to Israel and the Holy Land in 2000 or combating anti-Semitism in the U.S. and Europe, Gene Fisher has been a key partner in Jewish-Catholic dialogue. He leaves behind a legacy for which the bishops' conference and its ecumenical staff will long be grateful," Father Massa said.
Dr. Fisher has lectured widely throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. He has published 20 books and monographs, and more than 250 articles in major religious journals, many of which have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish and German for publication in Latin America and Europe. He has participated in countless interfaith programs in the U.S., Israel, and the Vatican, and worked closely with the ADL and the League's Director of Interfaith Affairs Emeritus, Rabbi Leon Klenicki, to pioneer interfaith educational projects. He helped to develop teaching materials about the Jewish roots of Christianity and the need for Catholics to confront anti-Semitism wherever it existed in the life of the Church.
In accepting the ADL award, Dr. Fisher said: "In 30 years much has indeed changed, and I am glad to have been a part of it. Nostra Aetate worked. All generations of Catholics-almost two now-have been raised differently."
Eugene Fisher joined the staff of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) in 1977. He will retire from the Conference staff on July 1.
The ADL Joseph L. Lichten Award in Catholic-Jewish Relations was established in 2005 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate and Vatican II. The first award was presented to Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and President of the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, in Rome on December 15, 2005. The award is named in honor of ADL's long-time Director of Catholic-Jewish Relations, who was present throughout the Second Vatican Council.