18th Annual Bernardin Lecture Celebrates Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

With more than 250 community members and religious leaders in attendance, representing the Catholic and Jewish communities in Chicago, the 18th Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture was held on February 20, at DePaul University's Lincoln Park Student Center. 

As part of an honored and long-standing tradition of Catholic-Jewish dialogue in Chicago, the Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture has served as the significant annual event for Catholic-Jewish relations, now recognized internationally as the premier encounter between our communities. The annual lecture honors the legacy and memory of the late Cardinal Bernardin, whose efforts to encourage public dialogue with the Jewish Community opened new horizons for scholarship and interreligious dialogue. The first lecture, entitled, "Anti-Semitism: The Historical Legacy and the Continuing Challenge for Christians," was delivered by Cardinal Bernardin at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel in 1995.

This year's event featured welcome remarks from Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik addressing the topic of "Jews, Catholics and the American Idea," and closing remarks by Reverend Thomas A. Baima about the celebrated history of Catholic-Jewish relations.

Francis Cardinal George began by sharing his personal reflections on Catholicism and Judaism in America. He extolled the virtues of the practice of these biblical religions in America in that they each grant the dignity of the individual while still allowing that individual to participate in American society.

Rabbi Soloveichik, Director at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and an Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York, echoed Cardinal George's insights throughout his lecture.  He lauded America's embrace of religious differences dating back to the Founding Fathers.  He declared that a "just society allows everyone to engage in society and still keep his or her religious ideals" and that respective loyalty to what makes us different actually brings us together.  The pluralistic promise of America is that "our faith is an intrinsic part of ourselves and cannot be separated from ourselves as we enter society."  Rabbi Soloveichik described America as "the home that different faiths built together," and that building takes place via integration without demanding assimilation. Ultimately, religious freedom is the essence and embodiment of the "American Idea" where we are joined as a nation, but we maintain religious freedom and true justice for all.

Lastly, Reverend Thomas A. Baima, Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Chicago, made closing remarks about the illustrious history of the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue and the Bernardin Lecture series.  He described his honor in editing A Legacy of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue: The Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lectures, which  chronicles ten years of Catholic-Jewish dialogue and features the first ten lectures in the series, written by some of the world's leading experts in the field of Catholic-Jewish relations.

The 18th Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago, the American Jewish Committee, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.  The co-sponsors for this year's program were DePaul University's University Ministry, Department of Religious Studies, Center for Interreligious Engagement, Department of Catholic Studies, Center for Jewish Law and Judaic Studies, Center for Intercultural Programs; and Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.

Stephanie Sklar is Director of Domestic Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

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