New York, NY, March 29, 2011 … In the first interfaith dialogue of its kind, the nation's leading Catholic and Jewish scholars and interfaith leaders participated in a conference sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to discuss Eastern Catholic Churches and their relationship to Judaism, Israel and the Roman Catholic Church.
ADL convened the groundbreaking gathering in order for Catholic and Jewish leaders to learn together about the commonalities and distinctions between the Roman Catholic Church – which has been engaged in positive dialogue with the Jewish people since the 1965 Second Vatican Council – and the lesser known Eastern Catholic Churches, a group of more than 20 individual Catholic churches around the world which have their own histories, liturgy, traditions and theology about Judaism but which are ecclesiastically united with the pope in Rome. They include the Melkite, Maronite, Ukraninan, Ethiopian, Chaldean and Syro-Malabar Catholic Churches.
Since last fall, when religious leaders from two different Eastern Catholic Churches publicly expressed outrageous anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments, ADL felt a sense of importance to learn and understand more about the various Eastern Catholic sects.
While speaking in Rome on October 23 at the conclusion of a Bishops Synod on the Middle East called by Pope Benedict XVI, Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros denied the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Archbishop Bustros, chair of the Synod's drafting committee, and who is based in Newton, Mass, said that God's covenantal promise of land to the Jewish people "was essentially nullified by the presence of Jesus Christ – and that "there is no longer a chosen people."
"Since the public controversy erupted over Bustros' anti-Jewish and anti-Israel remarks, it became clear that in the interests of the evolving Catholic-Jewish dialogue, we must together examine these questions to clearly determine how widespread these anti-Jewish sentiments might be in the Eastern Churches, and together brainstorm about potential ways forward," said Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs. "This conference was a first step to better understand the issues."
The conference featured presentations on the history and theology of Eastern Churches by Rev. Ronald Roberson, Associate Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Chorbishop John Faris, Pastor of Saint Louis Gonzaga Maronite Church in Utica, NY; Professor Amy-Jill Levine, New Testament Studies, Vanderbilt Divinity School; and Professor Philip Cunningham, Director, Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations, Saint Joseph's University.
Participants included Professor Celia Deutsch, Barnard College; Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director; Rabbi Irving Greenberg, founding president, Jewish Life Network; Professor Susannah Heschel, Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College; Father James Massa, Executive Director, Ecumenical and Interreligious Affair, USCCB; Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Senior Rabbi, Park Avenue Synagogue; Father Dennis McManus, Assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan; Professor Elena G. Procario-Foley, Driscoll Professor of Jewish-Catholic Studies, Iona College.