A Legacy of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue: The Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lectures

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A Legacy of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue: The Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lectures. Edited by Thomas A. Baima. Chicago, 111.: Liturgy Training Publications, 2012. xxvi + 210 pp. $18.00 (paper).

This collection of the first ten annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lectures gives an excellent snapshot of the state of Catholic-Jewish dialogue in Chicago between 1995 and 2005, in light of the historic Second Vatican Council document concerning the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate. These lectures had their beginning with the Catholic-Jewish trip the Cardinal led to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in 1995, and the lecture "Anti-Semitism: The Historical Legacy and Challenge for Christians," which he delivered at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a part of that visit. Upon their return to Chicago, the editor of this book, Thomas Baima, and three other participants in the trip discussed the idea of a series of annual Jerusalem Lectures and were able to obtain the full support of Cardinal Bernardin.

Thomas Baima in his preface writes that the first ten lecturers have "produced the most sustained engagement of public intellectual dialogue on Catholic-Jewish relations in the United States" (p. vii). In his "Introduction," which itself is an address he gave at the American Academy of Religion regional meeting in 2005, Baima gives a "summary of the manifold ways in which the Archdiocese of Chicago has engaged its several Jewish partners in dialogue through initiatives promoting the common good, through scholarly engagement of the two communities' sometimes mutually exclusive religious claims" (p. ix). The first nine lecturers reflected on the theological and historical issues which separated these two faith communities. As one would expect, these issues include anti-Semitism, anti-Judaism, the Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust, the significance of the Holocaust, and the creation of the State of Israel for the Jewish people.

Bernard McGinns lecture, "How Jewish and Christian Mystics Read the Bible," strikes a positive note as he sheds light on how Christian and Jewish mystical hermeneutics were more alike than one would expect. Francis Cardinal George, in the tenth lecture, "Catholics, Jews, and American Culture," challenged the dialogue partners with these words: "If we are to make a contribution to the development of a new culture here, the biblical religions must find their respective voices and claim a new visibility. …


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