Catholic and Jewish leaders lauded the improved relations between the two religious groups Dec. 4 at the third European congress on the Jewish-Catholic relations.
Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the retired archbishop of Paris, suggested that improved relations between Jews and Catholics could help advance civilization and encourage Muslims to enter into the inter-religious relationship with more trust and less fear.
“I hope that the quality of the relationship that we’ve attained between Jews and Catholics could bear fruit with other religions,” agreed Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Paris.
Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum of Cologne, Germany, who welcomed Pope Benedict XVI during World Youth Day 2005, said the world has suffered from anti-Semitism for a very long time. He distinguished, however, between the beginning of the Holocaust in 1938 and the way it is expressed to today.
He referred to an event that had taken place last month as an example. Police disallowed a neo-Nazi demonstration planned for Nov. 9, in front of the synagogue of Cologne. Hundreds of citizens, including non-Jews, spontaneously gathered in front of the synagogue to counter-demonstrate.
The joint actions of Jewish and Catholic aid and development organizations were highlighted, such as a medical lab in Gabon that produces inexpensive medications for Africa. According to Cardinal Lustiger, it is very important that the Jewish and Christian traditions witness together in this way.
“Here opens a common field of action which can be decisive for the future of civilization in the current conditions,” he said. These two traditions, who believe in the inherent dignity of man, work together in the face of other traditions, he said.
“It is important that in Africa, Latin America or in the Ukraine, Jews and Catholic present themselves together to serve their neighbor,” said Cardinal Lustiger.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon invited Christians present to rediscover “the dignity of being associated to the Jewish people.”
“We are Israel as well,” he said.
Held at the Paris City Hall, the gathering honored Pope John Paul II. The late Pope denounced anti-Semitism and “engaged the Church in a purification of its memory,” said Archbishop Jean Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, president of the French bishops’ conference.
European Jewish Congress president Pierre Besnainou added it was John Paul who, through his actions perhaps more than his words, contributed the most to improving relations between Christians and Jews.