In a recent ceremony commemorating Pope Benedict's visit to a synagogue during his U.S. visit in 2008, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York spoke on the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations, stressing that the two must focus on their commonality and work together to preserve the “memory” of the faith.
Archbishop Dolan gave his remarks at the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Park East Synagogue in New York City on April 22. Discussing the drastically-improved status of Catholic-Jewish relations, the New York prelate said, it “should not be lost on us that a millennium ago, a century ago or even fifty years ago, these visits would have been unthinkable – even condemnable – in both Christian and Jewish circles.”
“How far our friendship has come, that our leaders can welcome each other with affection and respect into their very houses of worship!” he noted.
On the future relationship between Jews and Catholics, Archbishop Dolan addressed his “modest proposal,” underscoring the importance of both groups striving to keep memory and mutual concern alive in their interactions with each other.
“Memory,” said the archbishop, is “a foundational element of our dialogue together; without it, we loose a sense of who we are, most especially in relation to each other.”
“Both of our traditions reverence memory,” he asserted. “'To forget' is disastrous, dangerous, and heretical. We both worry about an amnesia that seems a part of today’s existence, to live only for the now, unconscious of our roots, our foundations.”
“It is my hope that in the many years God may give me as Archbishop of New York, our Catholic-Jewish dialogue may be marked by a practice of 'memory' which never fails to hold us mutually accountable to the honesty and transparency demanded by the tragedy of the Holocaust, but also to a 'mutuality' of concern for each other which places our friendship first, and our grievances second. Our dialogue must never be reduced to one of exchanged grievances.”
“So many challenges again face both of our communities,” stressed the archbishop, who discussed mutual concern regarding “the protection of children from any kind of abuse or deprivation; the slow, but steady diminution of the importance of marriage as the keystone of family life, culture, and civilization itself; the continued marginalization of the poor, in particular of immigrants, refugees and the homeless on our streets; the denial of human dignity, seen almost everywhere in crimes of bias, hate, and discrimination.”
Archbishop Dolan also addressed the task of “reclaiming of the importance of Sabbath rest and worship in a culture that tends to be frantic and function-oriented, placing value upon what we produce and do, rather than who we are.”
“Surely, we could learn both with and from each other when puzzling our way through what social scientists tell us about the religious behavior of our families, especially our young people,” he added. “It is chilling to read the results of the research of religious sociologists who soberly report that our young people feel less and less loyal to their inherited faith.”
“Can we not work together, then, for our own good and that of the society we hope to transform?” the archbishop asked. “Can we not imagine how our dialogue could assume the twin qualities of 'memory' and 'mutuality' for the sake of its own growth in a time when our combined strengths could be a light to all the peoples of the world?”
“I would hope that we can do so,” Archbishop Dolan continued before inviting religious leaders of both communities to further consider how to implement “such changes.”
Archbishop Dolan concluded his remarks by suggesting that Jews and Catholics “take a further step” in their relationship and “'engage' each other actively, fully respectful of our identities and differences, yet come together in whatever convergences would help us to build up our relationship.”