On the pathway of dialogue

The Day of Judaism in Poland and in Italy

On January 17 the Church in Italy, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands celebrated the “Day of Judaism”, an expression of great appreciation of Judaism on the part of the Catholic Church. “In those places where Jews and Catholics live side by side – father Norbert J. Hofman, Secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism wrote on the ‘Osservatore Romano’ – joint undertakings are often produced at academic level and in concrete pastoral care”. Also the Swiss Bishops’ Conference is engaged in forwarding concrete projects for the introduction of a particular Dies Iudaicus and “it is to be hoped that also the other Bishops’ Conferences will consider this option in the promotion of Jewish-Christian dialogue”.Poland. Each year, ceremonies for the Day of Judaism in Krakow take place alternatively in the synagogue or in a Catholic church. This year a common Liturgy of the Word, presided over by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, was celebrated January 14 in the basilica of the Franciscan friars. The archbishop of the Polish city and former private secretary of John Paul II underlined that the Day of Judaism, celebrated in Poland since 1998, was established to “step up all the good in bilateral relations and to uproot what is evil”. This year’s national celebrations were organized in Tarnow, in the Southeast of the Country. In the early afternoon Jews and Catholics prayed together in the site where the Great Synagogue once stood (destroyed by the Nazis) and in the Jewish cemetery. Later during the day, during an official ceremony, the prestigious recognition instituted by the Polish Jewish-Christian Council was awarded to Alon Goshen-Gottstein, founder and director of the “The Elijah Interfaith Institute” for the progress of inter-religious dialogue. “Our meetings with practicing Jews enable us to acknowledge our common responsibility in the future of revealed religion in our continent, ever-more dominated by laicism”, Msgr. Mieczyslaw Cislo, President of the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Polish Bishops’ Conference and head of the Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, wrote in his message. Szewach Weiss, former Knesset president, also chairman of the board of directors of Yad Vashem and former Israeli ambassador to Poland from 2000 to 2003 said, “The day of Judaism celebrated by the Catholic Church has a special dimension in Poland. This is the place where Jews and Catholics lived together for 800 years. They lived peacefully, maybe like nowhere else in the world, like two neighbours who respect one another”. After the holocaust inferno, of 3.5 million Jews that had been living there only few remained. “Those who survived World War Two were forced to emigrate by the Communists”. “But the situation changed after the fall of Communism”, and also thanks to the “great Pope John Paul II” Poland became increasingly aware that “the Jews were are integrating part of the Country, of its culture, science, philosophy, politics and of all the areas of life”. Italy. Rabbis and Catholic theologians convened in Italy once again for the “Day dedicated to deepening and developing Jewish-Christian dialogue” which in 2010 was sealed by the visit of Benedict XVI to Rome’s Synagogue. The program included round tables, reflections and shared moments in the synagogue. This year the Day was dedicated to the fourth commandment according to Jewish numeration, the sanctification of “Sabbath”: “Remember the Sabbath day, to sanctify it”. Last year the Italian rabbinical Assembly had decided to suspend the celebration of the Day. A breakthrough leading to the resumption of the initiative, following a series of clarifications, came about past September 22 when cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, met in Rome rabbi Giuseppe Laras, President of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly, and the Chief rabbi of Rome’s Jewish Community Riccardo Di Segni. On the basis of the “clarifications” that took place during the meeting, it was “jointly agreed” to resume the joint celebration of the Day. In a joint message to the respective communities, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, President of the Italian Rabbis Assembly and Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, bishop of Terni and president of the bishops’ Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, wrote: “Sabbath, a time of divine rest and distension, thus becomes a felicitous occasion for sociality in the broader sense of the term, since it enables us to open our hearts and listen to the voice of solidarity which weekly hubbub and fatigue prevent us from perceiving”.

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