Delegates of Catholic Church, Orthodox Judaism, Share Concerns Over Situation in Middle East, Resolve to Work Together for Peaceful Solution

March 12, 2004 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (March 12, 2004) -— A sharing of concerns over the tragic situation in the Middle East and a joint resolve to work for a peaceful and just solution for all involved, both Jews and Palestinians, was a major topic of discussion at a recent meeting of delegates of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Judaism.

The meeting in New York was attended by representatives of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Organizations, and the Rabbinical Council of America. It continued a series of twice-yearly meetings that began in 1987 following the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States and his historic meeting with representatives of the American Jewish community. The meeting occurred on the same day that a suicide bomber in Israel took the lives of eleven innocent civilians, an act which the group condemned for the inexcusable senselessness it represented, even as it prayed for the victims and their families.

Of special concern to the Catholic delegation was the plight of Christians in the area and what might be done to assist them, a concern warmly and supportively received by the Jewish delegation.

A second area of mutual concern, raised by the Jewish side, was the possible impact of the film, "The Passion of the Christ," which had not been released when the meeting took place. Without commenting on the film itself, which none had seen, the delegates agreed that the often tragic history of Passion Plays over the centuries legitimized such concerns in the present.

The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to stand together to fight anti-Semitism wherever it might arise. It was noted that in cities across America, Jews and Catholics are developing educational programs on the proper understanding of Church teaching in this area. Bishop William F. Murphy called the attention of the group to a new publication of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Bible, the Jews and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents, as a helpful resource of official Catholic Church statements on this important topic.

The two groups agreed to establish a subcommittee to develop a joint statement on aid to schools to be presented for discussion at their next meeting on September 9, 2004. They will also take up shared concerns over recent attempts to redefine what both understand as the sacred institution of marriage, which would appear to infringe upon the freedom of religion in this country by imposing on all faiths the beliefs of some.

Catholic Participants:

Bishop William F. Murphy, co-chair for the BCEIA
Msgr. Donald Beckman, Ecumenical Officer, Diocese of Rockville Center
Rev. Arthur Kennedy, Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (SEIA)
Rev. Drew Christiansen, SJ, Associate Editor, America magazine
Rev. James Loughran, SA, Director, Graymoor Institute for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Rev. Guy Massie, Director of Catholic-Jewish Relations, Diocese of Brooklyn Staff:
Dr. Eugene Fisher, Associate Director, SEIA

Jewish Participants:

Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, co-chair.
Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, RCA/OU Inter-religious Committee Chair
Harvey Blitz, Orthodox Union, President
Richard B. Stone, OU, Chair, Institute for Public Affairs
Rabbi Bertram Leff, RCA
Rabbi Joseph Karasick, OU
Rabbi David Berger, RCA/OU
Rabbi Basil Herring, Executive Vice President, RCA
Rabbi Leon Feldman, RCA
Rabbi Tzvi Hersch Weinreb,Executive Vice President, OU
Betty Ehrenberg, Director, International and Communal Affairs, OU

The meeting took place on January 29.