The head of the Anti-Defamation League in New England says that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley went beyond words and took “meaningful and substantial action” to address Jewish concerns about the Pope’s handling of a Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop.
Derrek Shulman, the ADL's regional executive director, joined O’Malley on Thursday night at a dinner at Boston College Law School in Newton that marked the close relationship between Catholics and Jews in greater Boston. Also on hand was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, who spoke to students during an afternoon conference about Israel and its sometimes-strained relations at the UN.
In an interview, O’Malley said that Pope Benedict XVI had worked hard to address concerns raised about the Vatican’s decision to lift the excommunication of four ultraconservative bishops, including Richard Williamson, who denies the Nazis used gas chambers to exterminate Jews. O’Malley noted that the Vatican has dismantled the agency that had advised the pope on the matter, and has turned its duties over to a more rigorous commission with more staff and resources to avoid repeating such errors.
“Everyone was shocked and disappointed that it took place,” O’Malley said. “But no one who knows the Holy Father doubts his commitment to good relations between Catholics and Jews.”
O’Malley said the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land in May would “give the Holy Father an opportunity to further this dialogue and to show the world the church’s commitment to having very close relations with the Jewish community.”
O’Malley met with Jewish leaders in Boston in February to address their concerns over Williamson, and he pledged to move a Holocaust memorial from the Brighton chancery to the new Braintree headquarters of the Boston archdiocese. O’Malley also facilitated the visit to Boston last month of a senior Vatican cardinal, Walter Kasper, who is Benedict’s adviser on Catholic-Jewish relations.
Shulman said of O’Malley's initiative: “He reinforced his emphatic support for the Jewish people during the Holocaust. But he did more than share his words with us. He conducted what we think is some very meaningful and substantial action… We found it very powerful and comforting, and frankly very consistent with Cardinal O’Malley’s leadership on Jewish-Catholic relations.”
O’Malley called the Williamson issue “a hiccup along the road,” adding, “And that’s why people reacted so strongly -- because the relationship is so important.”
Ambassador Shalev said, “We look very much forward to the Pope’s visit. We welcome him and cherish the good relations with our Catholic and Christian friends…. I think the [Williamson] problem was solved.”
Shalev, a legal scholar who had twice been a visiting professor at BC Law School, was less forgiving toward Miguel D’Escoto, the radical Nicaraguan priest who is currently president of the UN General Assembly.
Shalev publicly criticized D’Escoto in September for hugging Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after his address to the UN. Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust occurred and has called Israel an apartheid state that should be wiped off the map.
“The president of the UN should be uniting, not dividing…. He does not understand his responsibilities as president of the General Assembly,” Shalev said.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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