ADL Mourns the Passing of Cardinal William Keeler, A Pioneer in Catholic-Jewish Relations

New York, NY, March 23, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) mourns the passing of Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, a pioneer in Jewish-Catholic dialogue. Keeler was a special advisor to Pope John XXIII during the historic Second Vatican Council. He was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore by Pope John Paul II in 1989 and later served as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he was instrumental in building interfaith bonds and addressing issues involving all Christian faiths and Jews. He was named cardinal in 1994.

“Cardinal Keeler was at the epicenter of the transformation of Catholic-Jewish relations over many decades,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “He will be greatly missed for his efforts in building bridges of respect and understanding between faith communities.”

Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, ADL Director of Interreligious Engagement, remembered Cardinal Keeler as a man deeply committed to his church and to the new era of Catholic-Jewish relations that began with Nostra Aetate.

“For Cardinal Keeler, Jewish-Catholic dialogue was not just another task on his long list of responsibilities, Rabbi Sandmel said. “This was something close to his heart, and the friendships he developed with his Jewish interlocutors were very important to him.  In our meetings, he was always thoughtful and attentive. He had an appetite for learning and did not hesitate to broach difficult or uncomfortable topics.”

Cardinal Keeler was honored in April 2008 with ADL’s Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award in recognition of his enduring work in repairing the Catholic Church’s relations with the Jewish people.


The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all.

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