Gregorian University marks 50 years since death of pioneer in Jewish-Catholic dialogue

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Gregorian University marks 50 years since death of pioneer in Jewish-Catholic dialogue

By Elena Dini

ROME — The Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University organized a series of scholarly lectures to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Agustin Bea, a pioneer in Jewish-Catholic relations. The lectures were held in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Center for the Study of Christianity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

On Feb. 28, professors and students of the Cardinal Bea Centre gathered at the Vatican for a papal audience.

“Cardinal Bea should not only be remembered for what he did, but also the way he did it,” said Pope Francis in his address. “He remains a model and a source of inspiration for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and in an eminent way for the ‘intra-familial’ dialogue with Judaism.”

“Dialogue calls for hearing two voices, and the witness of Jewish and Catholic instructors who teach together is worth more than many speeches,” he said, addressing the Jewish professors also gathered in Consistory Hall.

However, he said, more steps need to be taken.

“Friendship and dialogue between Jews and Christians need to pass beyond the boundaries of the scientific community. It would be wonderful, for example, if in the same city rabbis and parish priests could work, together with their respective communities, in service to those in need and by promoting paths of peace and dialogue with all,” he said.

Samantha Lin, a Lay Centre alumna, was among those invited to the papal audience. She earned a diploma at the Cardinal Bea Centre, thanks to the support she received from the school and as a Lay Centre scholarship student.

Lin described being part of the interreligious and ecumenical group to greet the pope as “a powerful experience.”

“The Church has a predominantly painful history with the Jewish people, one that is recent in the minds of many,” said Lin. “I was touched to be welcomed into the Apostolic Palace, along with a French rabbi living in Canada, the rabbi of the Florence Community, and other Jewish professors and figures. It seemed fitting that we should go all together before the pope, no distinction between Christian and Jewish, all brought together with one shared mission of fraternity and peace,” Lin commented.

One week later, the Pontifical Gregorian University held a panel discussion, hosted in collaboration with the American Jewish Committee, on the theme, “Jewish-Catholic Relations in the Francis Era: Achievements and Challenges.”

Father Etienne Vetö, director of the Cardinal Bea Centre, moderated the discussion and fielded questions to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs.

Lin described the event as a “particularly special evening that elicited true, honest reflection on the theological and societal points that still separate the Jewish and Christian communities.”

“While both men honestly spoke about theological differences, their friendship and respect for one another infused the evening with hope,” she continued.

“The work of dialogue is seen in friendship,” she said, adding that she experienced this to be true in her time spent at The Lay Centre. 

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