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Pope Says ‘shalom’ to Two Rabbis at Catholic Youth Event in Denver

August 18, 1993
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Two Jewish interreligious affairs leaders were among those who met with the pope last week during the World Youth Day event in Denver.

In brief meetings, Pope John Paul II greeted Rabbis Jack Bemporad and A. James Rudin by saying “shalom” and told them each how pleased he was that they had come to the mass gathering of young Catholics.

The encounter was perhaps the dramatic highlight of the four-day event for the rabbis, but they also held more substantive meetings with leading Catholic officials involved in Catholic-Jewish relations.

They also met with about 20 Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Muslim leaders to discuss how they can work together to advance morality and combat what Bemporad described as “the hedonism and relativism rampant” in contemporary society.

Bemporad is director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.

“Breakthroughs don’t happen” in interreligious dialogue, said Rudin, who is director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee. “It’s incremental, particularly in Catholic-Jewish relations because there are long institutional memories on both sides.

“It’s an enormous amount of effort, building relationships in the lobby, at meals, where you push the agenda,” said Rudin.

His agenda at the Aug. 12-15 event included emphasizing to the pope and other Catholic leaders the need for diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel.

Each opportunity to meet with Catholics is “one more building block,” he said.

Bemporad found the entire event useful because he made “very important” contacts with Muslims and the Orthodox church. “We are going to concentrate on the fundamental issue we face — this moral anarchy.”

Rudin, while in Denver, also spoke at Friday night Sabbath services at Temple Sinai, where he met an elderly woman who was born in Eastern Europe during World War I.

“She told me that ‘If 200,000 Catholics and the pope had descended on our town in those days, we would have boarded up our doors, shuttered our windows and locked our children in the basement for fear of anti-Semitic violence,’ ” said Rudin.

In contrast, several Denver synagogues and Jewish families offered their facilities and homes to the Catholic youth who poured in from around the globe for World Youth Day, so that they would have a sheltered place in which to camp.

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