An audience of more than 300 in Devlin Hall on Nov. 6 heard Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, decry anti-Semitism and urge continued dialogue between Catholics and their "elder brothers in the faith of Abraham."
Cardinal Kasper's speech capped a visit to campus in which he met with theologians and students as a guest of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning.
Center Executive Director Philip A. Cunningham said Cardinal Kasper's visit "was very energizing and important for several reasons. His visit with the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations, whose work is funded by our center, gave him the opportunity to meet some of the leading American Christian theologians of the dialogue.
"Cardinal Kasper stated several times during his visit how grateful he was that there were so many academic centers or institutes in the United States devoted to Jewish-Christian relations. Such centers are rare in other countries and so, as he said, their work represents a gift to the universal Church. This is because of the unresolved and challenging theological issues generated by Vatican II's repudiation of the ancient Christian teaching of contempt for Jews and the ensuing rapprochement between the two faith communities.
"The cardinal stated his commission depends upon the kind of intense research and sustained dialogue that are possible only in such university-based centers. Cardinal Kasper is aware that once our Center here at Boston College is fully established, and its permanent and visiting chairs are filled, that we will be the largest such endeavor in the world. So his visit to us could be an important moment in establishing a collaborative network between the Pontifical Commission and major university research and educational centers."
Assoc. Prof. Ruth Langer (Theology), a rabbi who is the center's associate director, said, "Discussions with Cardinal Kasper underlined the critical role that Boston College's Center for Christian-Jewish Learning is playing in the work of undoing almost 2,000 years of animosity between Jews and Christians.
"He set forth a challenging agenda that is fully coherent with the mission of the center: to combine serious theological reflection on difficult issues with work on spreading the fruits of the dialogue into community beyond the walls of the university. His discussions highlighted several issues already on the theological agenda of the center.
"Most significant of these was his affirmation that investigation into how God's unbroken covenant with the Jews interfaces with the universality of Christian mission is indeed demanding of ongoing discussion and reflection - but that both need to be affirmed and that within this, there are ways for Christians to fulfill their mission without converting Jews."
The text of Cardinal Kasper's address, "The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews: A Crucial Endeavour of the Catholic Church," may be read at the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning's site. [www.bc.edu/bc_org/research/cjl/articles/Kasper_6Nov02.htm] The site also features a report by Cunningham on the cardinal's visit. [www.bc.edu/bc_org/research/cjl/news/Kasper_visit_report.htm]
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