Pope Francis has welcomed the establishment of a Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations in Poland and called for a deepening appreciation of a common heritage. 

The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations is a new scientific and educational institution of the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin. Its purpose is to deepen Catholic-Jewish relations internationally on the scientific, educational, and cultural levels.

The inauguration ceremony took place Oct. 17. The inauguration was attended, among others, by the scholar Susannah Heschel, daughter of Abraham J. Heschel; the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa; and representatives of the Jewish and Catholic communities.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972) was a Polish-born American rabbi and influential thinker who also contributed to Jewish-Christian relations. 

On Wednesday, Pope Francis told Polish pilgrims at his general audience in Rome: “The need to research one’s own life also applies to entire nations. It is worthwhile to learn about the history of one’s own country in order to recognize the traces of God’s presence in it.”

The pope stressed that he was pleased that a center for Catholic-Jewish relations had been opened in Lublin.

“I hope it will promote appreciation of the common heritage not only of the two religions but also of the two peoples. I bless you with all my heart,” he said.

Speakers at the livestreamed opening ceremony included Rabbi Abraham Skorka; Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference; and Archbishop Stanisław Budzik of Lublin.

The initiator and founder of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin is Father Miroslaw Kalinowski, rector of the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin.

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The inaugural director is Father Miroslaw Wróbel, head of the Biblical Sciences Section of the Catholic University of Lublin. 

The new center’s deputy directors are Witold Mędykowski, a historian and specialist on the history of Polish Jews and the Holocaust, and Father Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, a biblical scholar and orientalist who holds a doctorate in Judaic and Hebraic studies from Oxford University.

The Catholic Church in Poland marks an annual Day of Judaism at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place Jan. 18–25. 

In Poland, the Catholic Church also observes a Day of Islam at the end of the ecumenical week.