Opening Remarks of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, at the 24th Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture
As we come together this evening for this 24th Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture, I want to use these first words to reassure our Jewish brothers and sisters of my full-throated support at a time when we witness in our time the continued rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts of hatred against Jews. In keeping with my statement this past month, I call on all people of good will to join me in rooting out this hatred from our homes, places of worship and public discourse. We need to work together as partners in combatting this troubling trend which puts Jews at risk while threatening the religious freedom and humanity of all.
The words recently delivered by Pope Francis to a delegation of Jewish leaders at the Vatican in November (2018) come to mind. “A Christian,” he observed, “cannot be an anti-Semite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure anti-Semitism is banned from the human community.”
It is important to note two things about this quote: First, Pope Francis makes it crystal clear that Christians cannot be true to their Christian identity while being anti-Semites. To live as an anti-Semitic Christian is a logical and theological impossibility. While this awareness is crucial, I invite us to consider just as strongly the second claim, namely, that one’s Christian identity calls each Christian to do something about anti-Semitism. To be a Christian is to be called to ensure that anti-Semitism is eradicated from the human community. It is this call to action that I want to highlight tonight.
To that end, I want to publicly encourage the various agencies, schools and parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago to re-commit themselves to work tirelessly with our Jewish partners and others to implement sound educational and formational opportunities to combat anti-Semitism in our communities. Let us rededicate ourselves as Christians to learn from and work together with our Jewish partners to make our respective communities places that will not tolerate intolerance. To do anything less, as Pope Francis reminded us, is simply un-Christian.
I am grateful to DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic University, for hosting again this annual lecture. DePaul has a long and proud history of supporting ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Thank you, President A. Gabriel Esteban, for welcoming us here tonight, as well as Mark Laboe, associate vice president for University Ministry, who was instrumental in organizing this gathering.
With gratitude, I also want to recognize the various and long-standing partners of the Archdiocese of Chicago in supporting this annual lecture: the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. During my time as Archbishop of Chicago I have come to know more deeply the Jewish community here and to esteem the strong relationship which exists between us. It is my hope that this relationship will only strengthen in the years to come and can witness to our city and our respective communities the value of collaborating with others for the good of all. We know all too well how much this witness is needed in our day.
Dr. Simkovich’s title for tonight’s lecture, “Christianity Through Jewish Eyes: Past Perspectives and Contemporary Statements,” offers us a unique opportunity to consider how valuable it is to understand ourselves through the eyes of another. These conversations can open our eyes to significant things about ourselves and our dialogue partner that might otherwise go unnoticed. This dialogue, we know, requires honesty, mutual respect and trust. It requires not just speaking about what is important to us, but radical listening and openness to honest reflection, perhaps even critique, from trusted partners. Thankfully, we have progressed to a place in our relationship where this dialogue is now possible.
Dr. Malka Simkovich stands as a trusted expert in Jewish-Catholic dialogue. She embodies what it means to enter into meaningful Jewish-Christian dialogue as she serves as a respected Orthodox Jewish scholar holding an important chair in religious studies at Catholic Theological Union. Along with the rest of tonight’s audience, I look forward to listening closely to what Dr. Simkovich has to teach Christians about how we are perceived through a Jewish lens. Surely, we will all learn something valuable in her reflection.
Ongoing learning is at the heart of the legacy inspired by Cardinal Bernardin, in whose memory we gather each year. We can learn from one another, he once remarked, if we consider ourselves as blessings to each another. Let us continue to be true to that legacy and even build on it through respectful dialogue that helps us to come to know one another better as a blessing that enriches each of our lives. That is my prayer and hope this evening. Thank you.