► 2003 : Des prêtres de Paris en formation à la Communauté juive de New-York
Voici un message qui vous intéressera sans doute, et qui nous montre que les choses avancent dans les relations entre juifs et chrétiens. Il sera sûrement question de ce voyage lors des Rencontres européennes Juifs-Catholiques de Paris les 10 et 11 mars prochains.
French priests receive valuable lessons in Catholic-Jewish dialogue
By Tracy Early, Catholic News Service, NEW YORK (CNS)
A delegation of young priests from France who visited New York's Jewish community Feb. 10-15 received valuable preparation for the next stage of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, according to the delegation's organizer.
Father Patrick Desbois, the French bishops' secretary for Jewish relations, said in an interview the last day of the group's visit that direct contact with the community's representatives gave the priests a new understanding of Jewish life as it is practiced today in the "diaspora," or outside Israel.
Members of the delegation, selected by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, were academics who had to have a background in Jewish and Hebrew studies.
But they knew Judaism mostly from books rather than from real life, Father Desbois said. Even those who had studied or otherwise spent time in Israel had never gotten the opportunity to become directly acquainted with Jewish life the way they did in New York, he said.
He said that Cardinal Lustiger, who is 76, also made a point of selecting younger priest-scholars to prepare them for the dialogue of the next generation.
Delegation members included Auxiliary Bishop Pierre d'Ornellas of Paris and seven other priests, joined by two deacons and two lay men. They were born several years after World War II and so came with a readiness to build a new relationship rather than rehash old controversies, noted Father Desbois.
He said they were not denying the Catholic-Jewish conflicts of the past, but were working "at a deep religious level" and looking to the future. They did not come to discuss "the archives of Pius XII," as he said some reporters seemed to imagine. Nor did they address the issues of Iraq or Palestine, he said.
After a Feb. 10 evening dinner, addressed by Cardinal Lustiger, the delegation undertook an intensive program Feb. 11-14. It included time at three institutions that train rabbis for the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform communities, lectures by Jewish scholars, visits to synagogues of historic as well as current importance, and meals at kosher restaurants, including a Japanese place.
The encounter with the Jewish community ended with a visit to a Conservative synagogue during an evening service Feb. 14, and then delegation members could spend Feb. 15-16 contacting church officials in New York or doing other activities. They stayed at a hotel near St. Patrick's Cathedral, and concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Edward M. Egan each morning at the cathedral, Father Desbois said.
Their visit to New York was arranged by Cardinal Lustiger with Rabbi Israel Singer, general secretary of the World Jewish Congress, which has headquarters in New York.
Pinchas Shapiro, a Jewish seminarian enlisted by Rabbi Singer to accompany the delegation on their rounds, told Catholic News Service Feb. 15 that congress officials agreed the two faith communities should now look to the future rather than review conflicts of the past.
"The dialogue is not about who did what to whom," he said. "The fights of the past have been fought and refought for too long."
It is time now, he said, to see "what we can do to benefit one another and what we can do together to benefit the world."
Father Desbois said it was highly unusual if not totally unprecedented that a group of Catholic priests were welcomed to New York's Hasidic community, and that a Satmar rabbi, representing one of the strictest groups in that community, rode the bus with the priests and gave them a guided tour of the Hasidic neighborhood.
Shapiro confirmed that the encounter with the Satmar community was a groundbreaking event. "They don't deal with the outside world that is Jewish, and they don't deal with the outside world that is Gentile," he said.
But Father Desbois said that at the end of the visit the Satmar rabbi volunteered to answer any questions the priests might want to send him later.
Shapiro said all of the Jews who met with the priests found it a "pleasant encounter" and "highly productive." They noted that the priests were "highly intelligent" and "eager to learn," and the result was a "free flow of ideas" that was enlightening to the Jewish presenters and Catholic listeners alike, he said.
Father Desbois said the visit was especially instructive to the French visitors because it showed them how a religious group could maintain a strong community life in "what is said to be one of the most secular places in the world."
Father Desbois said the visit was only one part of an extensive program the French church is carrying out in an effort to develop its relationships with the Jewish people.
Upcoming events include a visit of 70 U.S. rabbis to Paris March 10-11, and Bishop d'Ornellas plans to bring a delegation of French bishops to New York next year, he said.