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Rabbi-to-bishop contact proposed


NEW YORK, March 16 (JTA) — The sweeping apology offered by Pope John Paul II attempted to atone for sins of the past.

Using the pope’s historic pronouncement as a tool, Jewish and Catholic leaders around the world are now hoping to build a bridge for the future.

“Our concern was what effects will it have on the greater Catholic world,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the North American Boards of Rabbis.

“How will the spirit of reconciliation be continued in tangible ways?”

In an effort to promote dialogue between Jewish and Catholic communities, NABOR has proposed a program to “twin” local boards of rabbis in North America to districts of the European Council of Bishops.

Schneier made the proposal to Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, chairman of the European Bishops Conferences, at a recent meeting in Prague.

The question of where to go from here after the pope’s plea for forgiveness was asked by other religious leaders.

“How will the apology be implemented?” asked Rabbi A. James Rudin, national interreligious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee, after the pope’s speech Sunday at St. Peter’s Basilica. “How will it affect Catholic liturgy in the days, months and years ahead?”

A major goal of the initiative is to advocate the local acceptance of the pope’s 1990 announcement declaring anti-Semitism a sin against God and humanity.

The decade-old proclamation came after a meeting in Prague between the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultation and the Vatican’s Commission for Relations with the Jews.

While it was hoped that the manifest would filter down to the local level, only two of the 35 Bishops Conferences acted by making pronouncements of their own.

“Someone dropped the ball in the Catholic and Jewish communities,” said Schneier, of the lack of follow-up.

“This is not simply something that the Jewish community might like and the Catholic community might tolerate,” said Rabbi Stanley Davids, corresponding secretary for NABOR and past president of the Atlanta Rabbinic Association. “There seems to be interest on both sides.”

This will be a “clergy-to-clergy” effort, said Davids, to bring the tolerance espoused by the Vatican as of late down to the district level.

“We’re living in revolutionary times in Jewish-Catholic relations,” said Schneier. He said he hopes that through the twinning program, “each bishop conference can look at their history in terms of Catholic-Jewish relations in their communities.”

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