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Appointment reflects continued commitment to dialogue with Jewish community
Past cooperation has included Holocaust education, opposing anti-Semitism, and building friendships at the grassroots
WASHINGTON (December 8, 2010) —Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta has been named Moderator of Jewish Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), succeeding Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, newly elected USCCB president, in that role.
Archbishop Dolan resigned from the position as moderator when he was elected president at the general meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore, November 16. Bishops elected to the post of president ordinarily resign from all conference chairmanships and committees. Archbishop Dolan made the appointment of Archbishop Gregory as his successor earlier this week. The three-year appointment is effective December 12.
In announcing Archbishop Gregory as his successor, Archbishop Dolan commended him for his commitment to dialogue with other religious communities in the U.S.
“The archbishop of Atlanta has reached out to members of the Jewish community from the moment he was elected chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in 2008. He listens attentively to the concerns of others, is sensitive to building constructive relationships and has already begun to attend our meetings of the Jewish-Catholic dialogues, Archbishop Dolan said.
Rabbi Alvin Berkun, President of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly, noted that Jewish dialogue partners are extremely pleased with the designation of Archbishop Gregory as the Moderator for the Catholic side in the bilateral discussions.
“As an active participant during Archbishop Dolan's tenure, Archbishop Gregory has already brought to our table the benefit of his experience and wisdom as the former USCCB President. We look forward to his leadership in the years ahead,” Rabbi Berkun said.
Other Jewish leaders have expressed support for the appointment. “He is a superb choice: he is warm, caring, compassionate, and intelligent,” noted Rabbi Gil Rosenthal of the National Council of Synagogues. “And above all, Archbishop Gregory is committed to the goal of building bridges of trust and friendship between Jews and Catholics. We enthusiastically welcome his appointment.”
Archbishop Gregory assumes a role that had been held by Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, for more than two decades. Archbishop Dolan succeeded Cardinal Keeler as moderator in October 2009, several months after the former’s installation as Archbishop of New York.
“The relationships between the Catholic bishops of our nation and the Jewish community have made huge strides over the past fifty years,” said Archbishop Gregory. “Owing to Cardinal Keeler and the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, we have in place a deep trust and friendship that allows us to face problems together in a manner that would have been impossible prior to the reconciliation brought about by Vatican II and Pope John Paul II.”
Archbishop Gregory is past President of the USCCB (2001-2004) and a member of the standing consultation between the National Council of Synagogues and the bishops’ conference. He also serves as “Catholic president” of Christian Churches Together, an association that draws leaders together from the Catholic, historic Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical and Pentecostal, and African American churches to address topics related to poverty in the U.S., racism, and common witness in society.
Ordained an auxiliary bishop by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1983, Archbishop Gregory served as Bishop of Diocese of Belleville, Illinois (1994-2005) before Pope John Paul II appointed him as Archbishop of Atlanta. He holds a doctorate in liturgical studies from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute (Sant’ Anselmo) in Rome, numerous honorary degrees, and membership in the Martin Luther King Board of Preachers at Morehouse College, Atlanta.
Archbishop Gregory has written extensively on church issues, including pastoral statements on the death penalty and euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide, and has published numerous articles on the subject of liturgy, particularly in the African-American community.
At an interfaith luncheon in Atlanta last year, Archbishop Gregory acknowledged how much the Catholic Church borrows from Jewish worship in her liturgy.
“From the communal table meal to the proclamation of the Scripture, these are necessary and important components of Catholic prayer life. As Catholics, we are deeply aware of our rootedness in Jewish ancestry,” he said.
Keywords: Catholic-Jewish Dialogue, Moderator of Jewish Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. bishops, Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, interreligious affairs
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