Presentation of the Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award to Sister Rose Thering
Posted: April 2, 2005
Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
On the occasion of the presentation of the
ADL Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award
To Sister Rose Thering
Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder. In the eye of this beholder, Sister Rose Thering is the most beautiful person I know. Her passion, her determination, her fight for goodness and justice are shining lights…banishing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial into the darkness where they belong. It is a good thing she decided to skip the red carpet at the Academy Awards. She would have put all those superficial stars to shame with her inner beauty.
At 84, this indomitable, remarkable woman has become a movie star. Knowing Rose, this is only the beginning of another great career, another forum from which to spread the magnificent message she has been preaching since her doctoral dissertation influenced the unforgettable Vatican document Nostra Aetate forty years ago and continued to influence subsequent Vatican documents on the teaching of Judaism.
There is not enough time…there are not enough superlative adjectives… to adequately describe what the life and work of Sister Rose Thering have meant to the world. She changed the course of history. She is a prophet. She is what we call an Ayshes Chail -- a Woman of Valor -- who has brought enlightenment and honor and scholarship and pure passion to remembering and teaching about the Holocaust, to battling the demon of anti-Semitism, to challenging the ignorance of prejudice and the teaching of contempt, to championing the cause of Israel.
Rose's words speak most eloquently for themselves and speak most eloquently to us all. I share with you just a few of her comments at the rallies for Israel in Washington and New York a few years ago: "If we care about the Shoah, where are we Christians today when again Jews are being killed? Where are we when Israel is being pushed to give up her homeland, to give up Jerusalem, her capital? ... never again can we abandon Jews. God has never revoked his/her covenant with Jews. God has never revoked God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah."
Anyone who has ever met Sister Rose, been in her modest presence, heard her speak, has had a memorable and unforgettable experience. She has spent her life shining a light to expose evil and injustice. She is an inspiration and a role model. Sister Rose illuminates and blesses our world just by being in it.
"Sister Rose's Passion," the documentary film of her life and work, did not win an Oscar -- and I kept wanting to yell at the television screen "we wuz robbed!!!" -- but she has already won the most important award of all: a central place in all our hearts, and a right to sit at the right hand of God for all eternity.
Proverbs 31:29 says it better than any of us: "well done, thou good and faithful child. Many women have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all."
There could be nothing more fitting than to honor the magnificent woman whose work inspired the Vatican declaration on the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, with an award named for the magnificent man who crafted the key "Jewish Declaration" -- that unforgettable document -- and spearheaded it through the Second Vatican Council…Augustin Cardinal Bea….forty years after the triumphant passage that changed the face and the heart of the Roman Catholic Church forever. This very special tribute has been awarded only five times in the 20 years since it was established…only to princes of the church. This is the first time it has ever been awarded to a woman. And what a woman she is!
When Pope John XXIII, that amazing, bold, visionary ecumenical firebrand, determined to deal decisively with the question of Christian anti-Semitism, and to pursue a major reconciliation with his Jewish brothers and sisters, he turned to his confidant and fellow ecumenical crusader, Augustin Cardinal Bea, to head the newly-formed Secretariat for promoting Christian unity. The
Secretariat had three purposes: to ensure religious liberty, to enhance interchristian cooperation and to promote dialogue with Judaism. And he turned to Cardinal Bea -- that eloquent, generous noble spirit -- to draw up a document that would speak out against anti-Semitism and the notion of Jews as "deicides".
The Pope wanted a conciliatory statement stemming from his agonized recognition of the possible role played by religiously motivated anti-Semitism in the success of Hitler's program of exterminating European Jewry. The great Cardinal said, "It would be impossible for the Council to be quiet after the Holocaust of the war years" and made an impassioned appeal before the Council "to help cleanse Christian minds of anti-Semitism and lingering Nazi propaganda." One of the most respected and unflagging voices in the drive to heal centuries-old wounds, Cardinal Bea was truly the architect of the far-reaching ecumenical movement that emerged from Vatican II. Sister Rose Thering's doctoral thesis inspired Cardinal Bea's work and his document. And Sister Rose has continued to be inspired by the sea change wrought by Cardinal Bea. His voice was stilled in 1968, but his work lives on in Sister Rose.
I am proud, I am honored, I am thrilled…to present the Cardinal Bea Interfaith Award to Sister Rose Thering, who makes it come alive once again. Sister Rose, our profound admiration and deep affection for you know no bounds.