Internationally renown rabbi David Rosen discussed Christian-Jewish relations and the legacy of Pope John Paul II, in front of a packed house of over 100 spectators at the McShain Lounge in Kennedy Hall, on Monday night.
“Pope John Paul II’s teachings have enshrined his positive legacy of facilitating Catholic and Jewish understanding,” Rosen said to a mixed crowd of students, faculty and administrators.
Professor Yossi Shain, the executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Jewish Civilization, emphasized the extreme importance of Rosen’s visit to the Georgetown campus in his opening remarks.
“These are trying times for many of us in the world today and Rabbi Rosen discusses issues that go to the heart of relations between Jews and Catholics,” Shain said.
Throughout his hour-long speech, Rosen approached current Christian-Jewish relations from an essentially positive perspective. But he did not shy away from mentioning past wrongs done to Jews by majority Christian hegemonies.
“Although he was not really hostile and had no real animus towards them, Pope Pius would not recognize Jews because they had not recognized the Lord,” Rosen said.
Rosen described the holocaust as being “fertilized in part by demonization and marginalization of Jews.” Yet while emphasizing past wrongs, Rosen also highlighted the positive strides which the Catholic and Jewish faiths have made together since World War II.
“Angelo Roncalli, later to become Pope John XXIII, helped save thousands of Jews from the hands of Nazis,” Rosen said. With the election of Paul VI in 1963, the church began to make radical reforms in its views toward Judaism. And when Pope John Paul II came to power, perspectives changed even more, he said.
“The current Pope is shaped by a fundamental gratitude to Judaism as a root of his Catholic beliefs,” Rosen said. And because of what he saw as a Polish citizen during World War II, John Paul II has a “special dedication to the promulgation of Christian-Jewish relations and particularly Catholic-Jewish relations.”
During the question-and-answer session which concluded his remarks, Rosen specifically addressed contrasting views of Jesus in Christianity and Judaism and the challenges of reforming the views of Catholic laypeople. “Although great progress has been made, part of the world Catholic community has not internalized transformation,” he said.
Rosen left the audience by reminding them that “Jews owe Pope John Paul II an important measure of gratitude for his enormous contributions.”
After the address, lecture attendees enjoyed a reception in an adjoining room and mingled with dignitaries including the Israeli Embassy’s minister for public affairs, Moshe Fox. Most guests said they were inspired by Rosen’s remarks.
“Rabbi Rosen was very knowledgeable about Catholic and Jewish relations. He backed up his statements and showed how dedicated the Pope is to increasing good relations between Jews and Catholics,” student Matt Bushell (SFS ’06) said.
Rosen’s visit to Georgetown was the inaugural lecture in the Fred and Lesley Israel Lecture Series. The evening was sponsored by the Fred and Lesley Israel Center and the Georgetown Government Department. The Center for Muslim-Christian understanding also supported the event.