- Created: May 12, 2009
- Written by USCCB Office of Media Relations
Pope at Yad Vashem and Western Wall built on efforts of Pope John Paul II
‘Wealthy people must do good,’ notes Jewish-Catholic consultation
Wealth ‘a curse’ if we’re blind to other’s needs
WASHINGTON—Leading rabbis in interfaith relations applauded Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, which had earlier drawn criticism from several Israeli politicians and journalists.
“I really think it is purposeless to parse every word of the pope, and to read into [his remarks] nuances that were not intended,” said Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal, Executive Director of the National Council of Synagogues.
Rabbi Rosenthal made his comments at a press conference with Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York following the spring meeting of the consultation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) with the National Council of Synagogues (NCS) of America, May 12, in Manhattan.
Rosenthal added that “the Holy Father went to Yad Vashem; he prayed at the Wall; he reiterated the fact that the Shoah must never be forgotten and that the names of the six million victims must never be erased from historic memory.”
Rabbi Alvin Berkun, President of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly, stood with Rabbi Rosenthal, and said the pope’s visits to both the memorial and the Western Wall, where he placed a prayer for peace among the religions and states of the region, build on the successes of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who visited the Holy Land in 2000.
Archbishop Dolan hosted the consultation at the New York chancery, and then welcomed participants to a prayer service and reception at his residence.
“This is your home,” Archbishop Dolan told the Jewish members of the consultation, who were joined by other New York rabbis.
During the prayer service, Rabbi David Sandmel of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, prayed for Archbishop Dolan, saying, “May Archbishop Dolan ever be a source of inspiration and direction, a righteous teacher and a spiritual leader of men and women, young and old.”
The 20-year-old USCCB-NCS consultation considered the “proper use of wealth in a time of recession” for this meeting. Jewish Theological Seminary professor Eliezer Diamond applied ethical principles found in the Talmud to the present economic crisis. We live in a culture that stresses “good living,” he said. “But we’ve neglected the idea, which is common to both our traditions, that wealthy people must also do good.”
Speaking for the Catholic tradition, Queens College professor Thomas Bird drew on the parables of Jesus and the social teachings of the popes to identify the two-sided nature of wealth.
“It can be a blessing and a curse,” Bird said. “On the one hand, the increase of wealth enables an improvement in the quality of life. On the other hand, wealth can be a curse if it closes one’s eyes to the needs of others.”
Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop-emeritus of Baltimore, chaired the morning session, which included a discussion that showed significant overlap of Catholic and Jewish moral principles on the use of wealth.
Rabbi Berkum chaired the afternoon session where participants discussed a range of Catholic-Jewish issues. Members of the consultation underscored the importance of communication when a crisis arises between the two communities, such as last January’s uproar after the Vatican lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, one of whom has denied the fact of the Holocaust.
Catholic participants at the consultation also included Cardinal William Keeler, co-chair; Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, editor, America Magazine; Father Lawrence Frizzell, Seton Hall University; Atonement Father James Loughran, Atonement Ecumenical Institute; Bishop Basil H. Losten, Former Bishop of Stamford for Ukrainians; Bishop Dennis Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore; Monsignor Guy Massie, Diocese of Brooklyn, New York; Father James Massa, USCCB staff; Father Dennis McManus, Professor, Georgetown University; Father Robert Robbins, Archdiocese of New York; Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop of New York; and Bishop Patrick Zurek, Bishop of Amarillo, Texas.
Jewish participants in addition to Rabbi Rosenthal, Rabbi Berkum, and Rabbi Sandmel, included Rabbi Moses A. Birnbaum, Plainview Jewish Center, Plainview, New York; Rabbi Jerome Davidson, Hebrew Union College, New York; Rabbi Lewis Eron, Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Judith Hertz, NCS Board; Rabbi Ruth Langer, Boston College; Rabbi Joel Meyers, Executive Vice-President of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly; Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, New York; Rabbi Daniel F. Polish, Congregation Shir Chadash, LaGrangeville, New York; Carl Sheingold, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Jacob Stein, NCS advisor; Rabbi Jonathan Waxman, Congregation Beth-El in Massapequa, New York; and Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg, (Rabbi Emeritus) Adas Israel Congregation, Washington.