Pope Benedict Tells Jewish & Catholic Leaders
Dialogue Between Judaism & Catholicism Is "Very Important."
75 Jewish and Catholic laity and clergy from 24 U.S. cities gathered together in Rome October 21-25, 2007, to participate in the First Jewish-Catholic Lay Conference organized by the Interreligious Information Center, home-based in Port Washington, New York, in cooperation with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the National Council of Synagogues.
At the Papal Audience, Gunther Lawrence, Executive Director of the Interreligious Information Center; Vice President, Abie Ingber of Cincinnati; Amanda Schiff, a Jewish student from Port Washington, New York; and Father Michael Graham, President of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, presented Pope Benedict XVI with a YOM HASOAH Menorah. The 14” bronze Menorah, designed by Israeli sculptor, Aharon Bezalel, depicts 6 men and women holding six torches representing six million Holocaust victims. A holy man in front is clutching a prayer book. The figures are standing atop the base of a cracked Star of David inscribed with the years 1933-1945 along with the Hebrew words of the KADDISH, the Jewish prayer for the dead. The Pope appreciated the presentation and added that the holocaust victims must never be forgotten.
The YOM HASOAH Menorah was presented to Pope John Paul II on April 14, 1999. A 4 foot version of the same menorah was dedicated on the previous day in 1999 at the North American College in Rome, where it is permanently kept in a special “Garden of Remembrance”. Ten replicas of the large menorah have been placed in other American Catholic universities and dioceses.
In presenting the menorah to the Pope, Mr. Lawrence said, “Your predecessor did a great deal to improve relations between Catholics and Jews. We are pleased that you are following in the same vein to make certain that the understanding friendship between our two faiths continues and that even if issues arise, they will be dealt with as friends.”
The Pope’s response to Lawrence was “This is very important." Pope Benedict urged the leaders to expand their Jewish-Catholic dialogue in America, thus encouraging dialogue in other communities throughout the world. The presenters told the Pope that the enthusiasm for the conference by the 75 Jewish and Catholic participants has already demanded another conference, the development of educational programs for young people, and activities in which both faiths can participate in the churches and synagogues.
While in Rome, the group met with Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Office of Pontifical Relations with the Jews, who told the participants that his commission was ready to help with their activities. “The key to our future is education”, the Cardinal said. “The more people can understand the historic Nostra Aetate document and the other statements that have been issued by the Vatican, [then] they will be sufficiently informed to discuss any issue that arises.”
Cardinal Kasper further said, “We are friends in faith, and friends may agree to disagree but can do so in a friendly environment”.
This first Jewish-Catholic meeting at the Vatican concluded with plans for a major effort in the United States to accelerate educational, community and humanitarian activities by engaging local synagogues and churches. There are plans to develop an information website, coordinate lecture tours by Vatican speakers, and establishing special outreach to intermarried and unaffiliated couples. Special emphasis will be given to increase programs with high school and college students.
Before moving to greet the next person, the Pope was told by Lawrence in German,"The next time I come I will bring your favorite Weisswuerste (white sausages).” At which the Pope burst into a loud laughter.
Photos courtesy of Gunther Lawrence and the Interreligious Information Center
The pope's message to Protestants-and Catholics
by Jared Wicks, S.J.
In July the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) reaffirmed the Catholic doctrine that the church of Christ "exists fully only in the Catholic Church." Which prompted many people to say, "What, again?" or "Why now?"
Copyright 2006 CHRISTIAN CENTURY. Reproduced by permission from the August 21, 2007 issue of the CHRISTIAN CENTURY. Subscriptions: $49/year from P.O. Box 378, Mt. Morris, IL 61054. 1-800-208-4097