Visit to Israel by a Cardinal Seen As Sign of Possible Improvement of Vatican-israel Relationship

Roger Cardinal Etchegaray, president of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, was the recipient yesterday of the first Ladislaus Laszt International Ecumenical Award for his contribution to “mutual understanding between religions.”

The visit by a Cardinal to Israel, a rare occurrence, raised speculation that ties between Israel and the Vatican may soon be improved. The Vatican has yet to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.

The award ceremonies were held yesterday at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, attended by dignitaries from Israel and abroad. In his acceptance speech, the French-born Cardinal referred to the synod of bishops in 1983, where he proposed reconciliation between Christians and Jews. He acknowledged that the road was painful, but necessary.

Nelly Laszt, widow of Prof. Laszt for whom the award is named, attended the ceremony as did Chief Rabbi Rene Sirat of France, Mayor Eliahu Navi of Beersheba, Prof. Haim Elata, acting president and rector of Ben Gurion University, Father Marcel Du-Bois, head of the Hebrew University’s philosphy department and Gerhard Riegner, co-chairman of the Board of Governors of the World Jewish Congress.

Etchegaray recalled his first visit to Beersheba 20 years ago where, he said, he had an intimation of the ecumenical spirit. “And now it is God who has brought me back to Beersheba where I first sensed my vocation,” he said.

NEXT STORY