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Boston Cardinal Condemns Anti-Semitism, Reaffirms Christian-Jewish Ties

Posted: May 16, 2006

In his first major address to the Jewish community, Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston condemned the anti-Semitic teachings and traditions that plagued the Catholic Church for centuries, vowing that the modern Church would continue the reforms set out by the Second Vatican Council and deepened under the late Pope John Paul II to end the teaching of contempt for Jews.

"Many people might describe relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community as a terrible car crash," O'Malley said at an event sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League's New England Regional Office.  But we have survived, and God wants us to be friends."

The May 10 event, "A Special Evening with His Eminence, Sean Cardinal O'Malley" commemorated the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the landmark Vatican II document that reversed more than 2,000 years of negative Church teachings about Jews.

Cardinal O'Malley pledged that the Church would continue to fight against anti-Semitism and to work to promote interfaith relations and positive dialogue.

"In the past we have been part of the problem.  We must in future be part of the solution," he told an audience of about 500 people, including Jewish and Catholic community leaders and Boston firefighters.  "We have much in common and will be judged by the same God.  Let us work together to build a better civilization and world.  Our God will be pleased."

ADL's New England Regional Office has maintained a warm and significant relationship with the Boston Archdiocese and the Catholic community.  Cardinal O'Malley pledged to continue that relationship, with educational programs that stress the common roots and bonds of people of the two faiths.

The Cardinal also stressed the importance of Holocaust remembrance.  He expressed sadness on the failure of Christians to do more to help their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust.  He said that, "too many Christians did not have the courage of their convictions" and "too many were seduced by the fascism and nationalism" that led to the slaughter of six million Jews and others by the Nazis.

On the legacy of Nostra Aetate, Cardinal O'Malley said that the most significant thing about the historic document was that it was approved by an ecumenical council. "Council documents are held in church teaching to come ultimately from the Holy Spirit. It is therefore the spirit of God behind the text of Nostra Aetate and cannot be changed."

Two busloads of parishioners from St. Francis De Sales Parish in Charlestown came to honor the Rev. Daniel J. Mahoney, the Catholic chaplain to the Boston Fire Department, who was honored with the ADL Tishler Confronting Anti-Semitism Award for his work in fighting anti-Semitism and building interfaith relations. Joyce Zakim, the widow of Lenny Zakim, former ADL New England Regional Director, and a member of ADL's Board of Overseers, made the presentation.

In 1982, in the midst of a devastating fire at a synagogue in Everett, Father Mahoney led a group of firefighters into the sanctuary and rescued the Torah scrolls.  It was one of many selfless gestures that have marked his life as a religious leader and community icon, ADL leaders said in honoring him.

"Father Daniel Mahoney has spent a lifetime devoted not only to his own parishioners, but to the welfare of the entire community," said Beth and Gerry Tishler, ADL New England Regional Board members who established the award to recognize those who stand up to fight hatred and bigotry.

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ADL New England Region Congratulates Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley on Elevation to Cardinal
Cardinal O'Malley's Speech on Catholic-Jewish Relations
(Archdiocese of Boston Web site)

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2006 Anti-Defamation League