On March 31, the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue was honored to welcome His Eminence Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory who presented a livestreamed speech on the future of Catholic-Jewish relations in the context of the co-sponsored John Paul II Annual Lecture on Interreligious Understanding with The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, the first African-American Cardinal and a leading voice in the Catholic Church for racial and social justice, immigration reform, interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, has been engaged in the Jewish-Catholic relations for decades. Currently he is serving as the Catholic co-chair of the National Council of Synagogues consultation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
During the online event, which gathered over 240 attendees from all over the world (including Rome, Jerusalem, New York, Kyiv, and other cities), His Eminence discussed the history of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue, which has flourished since the promulgation of the Vatican II Council Decree on non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate (1965). He also reflected on current issues in Catholic-Jewish relations, and considered how these topics might guide mutual understanding in the future.
Cardinal Gregory emphasized the importance of extending three main areas of dialogue in the future, in particular, reaching the local level, going “outside” to serve the world, and including those who usually do not participate. These steps are essential if we strive to “repair the world together” (tikkun olam). His Eminence encouraged the attendees: “Working together towards a common goal that benefits humanity can only help to unite us.”
Furthermore, he mentioned the importance of giving space to new leaders and moving forward together. This is how true friendship should be built. “Our experience and knowledge of one another will allow us to approach the future as friends,” admitted His Eminence.
Cardinal Gregory also noted the recognition of the State of Israel by the Holy See in 1993 and the statement We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (1998). These examples show how patience can lead to real progress in dialogue. Rabbi Burton Visotzky from JTS, who brilliantly moderated the discussion, aptly paid attention to the Papal encyclical Laudato Si’ stressing the importance interreligious dialogue plays in our efforts to save the planet.
Furthermore, Adam Afterman, Director of the JPII Center and Professor at Tel Aviv University, warmly greeted participants of the webinar and expressed his gratitude to the Russell Berrie Foundation for its active role in organizing the event.
At the end of his talk, Cardinal Gregory noted the upcoming celebration of the Jewish Pesach and Christian Easter as a culmination point in the spring season for both traditions. The meeting concluded with a closing prayer and blessings to all people.
The John Paul II Annual Lecture on Interreligious Understanding was offered in partnership between the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, with the help of the Russell Berrie Foundation, and the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at Jewish Theological Seminary.