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Seeking a Culture of Dialogue in the United States Where Do We Go from here?
The following, taken from Cardinal Bernardin’s writings, was added to the pages that were assembled and photocopied under the title, Catholic-Jewish Dialogue, Evanston, Illinois, 1986-2001. However, it has nothing to do with the group as such.
In the 14 years that I have been archbishop of Chicago, I have spent a lot of time with my Jewish friends and colleagues. At our first meeting, when I spoke to the Chicago Board of Rabbis in 1982, I said to them, “I am Joseph, your brother.” I sincerely believe this both from personal relationships and from theological truth. I have tried, as a brother, first to listen to my Jewish friends. From this I have deepened my appreciation for the Jewishness of Jesus, my Savior. And I have also been able to speak of the genuine love that the Catholic Church has for the Jewish community. If any of this has helped to heal past resentment and division, I am grateful.
… On October 27, 1985, I presided at the twentieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate. By sharing that celebration with the Jewish community, I came to a new realization of the historic potential of the declaration of the Second Vatican Council. After that I resolved to seek every opportunity given to me as a local bishop to teach the message of Nostra Aetate.
… Throughout my life as a bishop, I have learned over and over again that good relations need the support of an appropriate structure to insure implementation of ideas and continuity of effort. If I could offer one piece of advice on where you go from here it would be this: Continue to build the relationship between the two communities on friendship, and then be sure to support it with structures of implementation and continuity. Then just keep going.
I began this reflection with the question, “Where do we go from here?’ Today, however, I find myself answering a different question, “Where do you go from here?’ Just two weeks ago, I learned that the cancer I have been fighting for over a year has returned. It has spread to my liver and is inoperable. I have been told that it is terminal and that my life expectancy is a year or less. In light of that news, my prayer has been that I might use whatever time is left in a positive way; that is, a way that will be of benefit to the people I have been called to serve as archbishop of Chicago within the Catholic Church and in the wider community and to my own spiritual well-being.
When I travelled to Israel with leadership from the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue, one of the real blessings was for each of us to understand the religion of the other by sharing in sacred moments. I gained a profound interest in my Jewish friends’ faith by our visit to Yad Vashem, in particular to the memorial to the children of the Holocaust. And I know that a similar experience happened for them accompanying me on the Way of the Cross. Both were special gifts.
I would like to end by sharing what I have said to my friends who have cancer and to the faithful of the archdiocese with whom I have celebrated the anointing of the sick. Because dialogue is sharing our faith experiences, I also want to share it with you. As a Christian, I believe that death is not the end, only a change. Death is the transition from earthly life to life eternal. We can look at death as an enemy or a friend. If we see it as an enemy, death causes anxiety. But if we see it as a friend, our attitude is totally different. In faith I want to say to you that I see my death as a friend.
As I conclude, I wish to tell you how much I love you and how much the Catholic-Jewish friendship has meant to me during the years I have been in Chicago. As we both go forward into the future God has planned for us, I want you to know that the dialogue has been a blessing for me. After 14 years, I truly feel that you have accepted me as Joseph, your brother.
A BLESSING TO EACH OTHER
September 16, 1996