Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic and Jewish scholars heard presentations on a book that one bishop called “an important milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations” and discussed mutual problems of rising school tuition and threats to religious freedom during recent dialogue sessions.

Meeting in New York, the dialogue between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Synagogues heard from one of the editors of “The Jewish Annotated New Testament,” published last November by Oxford University Press.

Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and co-editor of the book with Marc Zvi Brettler of Brandeis University, said it is vital for Jews to study the New Testament to gain respect for their Christian neighbors and Christians must do the same with the Hebrew Scriptures.

Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, Catholic co-chairman of the dialogue, praised the book as a milestone.

“Never before has a group of Jewish scholars made so learned and technical a reading of the New Testament,” he said. “Clearly, this new effort reflects the progress we have made since the Second Vatican Council in mutual respect for each other’s sacred Scriptures.”

Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues, said the volume “is testimony not only to the enormous competence of its editors and authors, but to the spirit of dialogue that can allow Jews to read and appreciate the Jewish context of Christian Scriptures.”

The dialogue session also included updates on implementation of practical aspects of the accord between the Vatican and Israel and on the ongoing process of reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with the Vatican. Participants also planned a two-day dialogue session for October on the role of religion in the public square.

At a separate USCCB dialogue session with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America, the topics included global economics, religious education, religious freedom and the state of Israel.

Opening with a discussion of a religious perspective on financial reform and a vision of just economic order, “both traditions underscored the need for the moral leadership of religious groups to shed light on ethical considerations in economic systems, their failures and possible reforms,” according to a USCCB news release.

The dialogue group also heard from James Cultrara, director of education for the New York State Catholic Conference, and Michael Cohen, New York state political director for the Orthodox Union, about the funding of religious schools in the state.

“There is a tuition crisis in both of our communities,” Cohen said. Noting that tuition has doubled at some schools in the past six or seven years, he added, “We need to find a solution that works.”

Thomas Renker, legal counsel for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., updated the group on developments related to the federal contraception mandate and the response of the Catholic community. Several participants noted “the inherent threat to religious freedom for all faith traditions which the situation presents,” the USCCB release said.

Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, provided an update on current cultural and domestic policy issues in Israel. The dialogue group also reviewed a report on the bilateral commission meeting at the Vatican in late March between delegations from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, Catholic co-chairman of the dialogue group, gave a brief report on the Catholic catechism for youths called ²YouCat.” Some concerns had previously been voiced about sections in the catechism dealing with Jewish people, which were later revised.

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