Good Friends of Jews Included Among Newly Elevated Cardinals

Several of the 22 new cardinals appointed Wednesday by Pope John Paul II, including the two American cardinals, are widely considered to be good friends of the Jews, lending a sympathetic ear to Jewish concerns and actively involved in building bridges between the two religious communities.

Never before have Jews had so many friends in this senior Vatican position, according to observers.

Among the cardinals newly elevated by the pope are Anthony Bevilacqua, 67, archbishop of Philadelphia, and Roger Mahony, 55, archbishop of Los Angeles.

Others among the newly appointed cardinals considered to be good friends of the Jews are Edward Cassidy, 66, archbishop of Australia and president of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews; Pio Laghi, 69, archbishop of Italy and formerly papal nuncio in Jerusalem and Buenos Aires; Antonio Quarracino, 67, archbishop of Buenos Aires; and Angelo Sodano, 63, the Vatican secretary of state.

They will join the College of Cardinals, the most important governing body in the Catholic hierarchy. Its 163 members act as the pope’s advisers and elect his successor. They are second only to the pope in authority.

The elevation of several who are strong supporters of Jewish interests “can be an important support in Rome,” said Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, a consultant on interreligious affairs and past chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.

Their appointment indicates a “maturing of 26 years of Catholic-Jewish relations,” according to Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

It was 26 years ago that the Vatican issued “Nostra Aetate,” redefining its relationship with Judaism.

PERSONAL FRIEND OF THE POPE

Bevilacqua has “a strong record of work and commitment in Jewish-Catholic relations,” said Tanenbaum. And Mahony has “very close working relationships” with leaders of the Los Angeles Jewish community and rabbinical groups.

Cassidy was the first church official to call publicly for Catholics to do “teshuvah,” (the Hebrew word for repentance) for their role in the Holocaust, and was a key player in recent meetings between Catholics and Jews in Rome. He is also known as a personal friend of the pope, Tanenbaum said.

According to Leon Klenicki, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, Laghi “is a great friend of the Jewish people” and, when in Buenos Aires as a papal nuncio, helped free Jewish political prisoners who were sentenced under Argentina’s military rule in the 1970s and ’80s.

And Quarracino, presently stationed in Buenos Aires, has been an active partner in dialogue since he promoted the very first meeting between Latin American Jews and Catholics in 1968, Klenicki said.

Sodano, the newly-appointed secretary of state, will be a critical link in the discussion between Jews and the church on the Vatican’s establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel.

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