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Archbishop Dolan Addresses Jewish Leaders

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York addresses the audience while participating in a presentation on Catholic-Jewish relations during the Anti-Defamation League’s annual meeting in New York on 3 Nov. (photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz) 

08 Nov 2011 – by Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) — Catholics and Jews can most effectively capitalize on five decades of progress in their relations by joining forces to promote religious freedom, defend immigrants, face a common threat from fanatics and advocate for civility in politics and society, said New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan.

He addressed more than 250 Jewish leaders assembled in New York Nov. 3 for the annual meeting of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism.

Reflecting on the current state and future of Catholic-Jewish relations, Archbishop Dolan said both groups must “continue to rejoice in how far we’ve come,” but not take the progress for granted. He dated the beginning of positive change to “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with non-Christian religions.

He said “Nostra Aetate” was “one of the most enlightened documents" of the council and it “set the bar high.”

It also opened the door to unprecedented visits to synagogues and Israel by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. “To have the man we call the vicar of Christ go to a synagogue is of earthquake proportions,” Archbishop Dolan said.

Archbishop Dolan said Pope Benedict’s Oct. 27 meeting in Assisi, Italy, with leaders of other faiths could not have happened 50 years ago.

Among “areas that call for rejoicing,” Archbishop Dolan said, is that both groups have grown in sensitivity to one another since Vatican II.

One of the characteristics of progress is the willingness to speak candidly about issues that cause “tension and neuralgia,” including Pope Pius XII; Holocaust denier British Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X; and the wording of prayers offered on Good Friday for the wellbeing of the Jews.

Archbishop Dolan said progress and friendship that began at the local level have now been institutionalized in both faiths. He cited the Catholic-Jewish dialogues that take place through the Holy See and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which the archbishop heads as president.

Going forward, Archbishop Dolan said Catholics and Jews should work together for religious freedom. He warned of “possible movement by the government that would dangerously tread on issues of conscience and religion that our two families hold very dear.”

“Internationally, all believers are in the crosshairs of fanatics around the world. Somewhere, someplace, somebody’s being persecuted to the point of blood because of their faith and we need to stand together in defense of those people,” he said, to applause.

He said it is time for both faith groups to “face realistically the common threat we have from fanatics, especially in the Islamist community.”

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Tags: Interreligious Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Catholic-Jewish relations