Catholic News Service
Pope Francis is embraced by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka as he leaves after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014.
Catholic News Service
Pope Francis is embraced by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka as he leaves after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2014.
The Catholic-Jewish relationship will be celebrated during an event set for 3 p.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25, at Congregation Beth Israel, 1972 NW Flanders in Portland with a reception to follow at St. Mary Cathedral. The afternoon, planned by both the Jewish and Catholic communities, will include commemoration and reflection.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s document on relations with people of non-Christian faiths.

The event will include a copy of the St. John’s Bible, an illuminated version of scripture created by St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. and owned by the University of Portland.

Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland and one of the leaders in the Jewish-Catholic talks, says the event celebrates not just dialogue, but “an ongoing relationship.”

“Our conversation with the Jews is a very natural thing; Jesus was a Jew,” says Tully, who grew up in a Jewish quarter of Chicago and took part in that city’s Catholic-Jewish dialogue formed by local rabbis and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in the 1980s. As a teacher at Mount Angel Seminary, Tully brings seminarians to the annual demonstration Seder conducted by the Jewish community in Portland.

“I am a much better Catholic because I have a relationship with the Jewish community,” says Tully.

“Catholics and Jews in Portland are so attentive to one another,” Tully says. “It’s one thing to have a dialogue. It’s another to have a relationship.”

Catholics and Jews need to know that they come from the same roots and share a belief in God, says Msgr. Chuck Lienert, who has taken part in Jewish-Catholic talks. He admits that, as in an estranged family, some awful things happened.

“‘Nostra Aetate’ opened our eyes,” Msgr. Lienert says. “Catholics began to look at people of other faiths not so much as those we are opposed to, but as those who share our traditions and values.”

As the relationship in Oregon grew, Catholics and Jews felt comfortable talking to each other about difficult topics like clergy sex abuse, policy in Israel and forgiveness.

Msgr. Lienert calls the relationship “very fruitful” and foresees more common cause in the future.  
He notes that Portland’s Congregation Neveh Shalom has joined the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, which already includes Catholic parishes.     
Rabbi Michael Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel says it was a “profound experience” for Jews 50 years ago when the Vatican humbly admitted its mistakes and sought a new relationship with its “older brother in the faith.”

The bond between Catholics and Jews is nowhere so good as it is in Portland, Rabbi Cahana says. He credits Tully and an entire community that cares about the relationship and enjoys it.

Congregation Beth Israel’s proximity to St. Mary Cathedral and Trinity Episcopal creates a “powerful center of gravity,” the rabbi explains. He joins the pastors of the two churches each year for a panel discussion on a topic of faith. And Jews still recall with gratitude how

Catholic leaders played a role in the long effort to build Oregon’s Holocaust memorial in 2004.

“I hope these relationships get distributed,” Rabbi Cahana says, hoping Jews and Catholics in the pews get to know each other more and more.
Sponsors of the Oct. 25 event include the Jewish Community Relations Council - Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, The Archdiocese of Portland, University of Portland, Oregon Board of Rabbis, Garaventa Center, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Shaarie Torah and Oregon Catholic Press.