Letter from the President of Polish Bishops’ Conference on the occasion of the inauguration of the Abraham J. Heschel Center at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL)

17-10-2022
186

The establishment of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the Catholic University of Lublin is a realization of the Council’s declaration Nostra aetate and the Church’s teaching expressed by successive Popes,” wrote Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, in a letter on the occasion of the inauguration of the Abraham J. Heschel Center at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.

In a letter sent to the Rector of the Catholic University of Lublina, Rev. Prof. Miroslaw Kalinowski, the President of the Polish Episcopate stressed that the inauguration of the Abraham J. Heschel Center in October 2022, when we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, has symbolic significance. He sad that it was at this Council that the declaration Nostra Aetate was issued, which remains to this day one of the most important reference points in the forming of Catholic-Jewish relations. In the letter, archbishop Gądecki emphasized the important role Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Center’s patron, played during the Second Vatican Council and his contribution to the provisions of the Nostra Aetate declaration. “The conciliar declaration Nostra aetate owes much to Professor Heschel’s openness to dialogue and his wisdom,” we read in the letter.

He pointed out that the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations was established at a university that, in its name, recalls John Paul II, a remarkably important figure in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. “It was St. John Paul II who brought to the Church a special sensitivity to Jewish issues. The Polish Pope is to this day a role model in Catholic-Jewish dialogue” – wrote the President of Polish Bishops’ Conference, recalling the fact that  He was the first pope to pray together with a rabbi for peace, the first pope to enter a synagogue, and to visit the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. “It was St. John Paul II – at the time when we were preparing the First Day of Judaism in Poland in 1998 – who decided that its motto should be: ‘Whoever meets Jesus, meets Judaism,’” added Archbishop Gądecki.

The President of the Episcopate also stressed that in recent times, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis „ have significantly developed Catholic-Jewish relations, setting an example for the entire community of the Catholic Church.”.

On behalf of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, he thanked Rev. Prof. Miroslaw Kalinowski, Rector of KUL, for establishing the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. He wished, that the activities of the Heschel Center will “result in the building and deepening of good Catholic-Jewish relations on the scientific, educational and cultural levels internationally”. “May the distinguished Patrons, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Pope John Paul II, be guides on this shared Catholic-Jewish path,” he added.

Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference

 

We publish the full text of the letter:

Warsaw, October 17, 2022

Magnificence,

Reverend Father Rector,

I welcomed the initiative presented to me a year ago to establish a scientific and educational center dedicated to Catholic-Jewish relations at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. I am glad that this initiative already has its concrete expression in the form of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin.

It can be said that the inauguration of the Abraham J. Heschel Center in October 2022, when we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, has symbolic significance. It was at this Council that the declaration Nostra Aetate was issued, which remains to this day one of the most important reference points in the forming of Catholic-Jewish relations. The declaration reminds us that with no other religion does the Catholic Church have such a close relationship, nor with any other nation does it share such a close bond as with Judaism. “The Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.” (Nostra aetate, 4). It is precisely these spiritual ties between Catholics and followers of Judaism that oblige mutual understanding, including on an academic level, and fraternal relations (cf. ibid.).

At this point, I would like to emphasize the very important role Rabbi Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Center’s Patron, played during the Second Vatican Council and his significant contribution to the provisions of the Nostra Aetate Declaration. His long-standing cooperation with Catholics in Europe and the United States, meetings with Pope Paul VI, and numerous contacts with Cardinal Augustine Bea resulted in Rabin’s great involvement in the creation of the document. The conciliar declaration Nostra aetate owes much to Professor Heschel’s openness to dialogue and his wisdom.

At the same time, I would like to point out that the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations was established at a university that, in its name, recalls another remarkably important figure in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, in opening the Center, is also taking up the spiritual legacy of its former Professor and Patron. It was St. John Paul II who brought to the Church a special sensitivity to Jewish issues. The Polish Pope is to this day a role model in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. He was the first pope to pray together with a rabbi for peace, the first pope to enter a synagogue, and to visit the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. John Paul II was the first pope to pray at the Western Wall, asking God for forgiveness and mutual brotherhood. He also stressed that antisemitism is a sin. It was St. John Paul II – at the time when we were preparing the First Day of Judaism in Poland in 1998 – who decided that its motto should be: “Whoever meets Jesus, meets Judaism.”

The attitude of the Polish Pope and his consistent teaching in the process of bringing our two religions and peoples closer together was unparalleled in the previous history and has become an inspiration for the Church in Poland. In recent times, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have significantly developed Catholic-Jewish relations, setting an example for the entire community of the Catholic Church. The establishment of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the Catholic University of Lublin is thus a realization of the Council’s declaration Nostra aetate and the Church’s teaching expressed by successive Popes.

On behalf of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, I thank Rev. Prof. Miroslaw Kalinowski, Rector of KUL, for establishing the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. I wish the Rector, the Center’s Staff, and the Academic Community that the activities of the Heschel Center will result in the building and deepening of good Catholic-Jewish relations on the scientific, educational and cultural levels internationally. May the distinguished Patrons, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Pope John Paul II, be guides on this shared Catholic-Jewish path.

Ad multos annos! Shalom!

✠ Stanislaw Gądecki
Archbishop Metropolitan of Poznań
President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference

___________________________________________

His Magnificence
Rev. Prof. Mirosław KALINOWSKI
Rector of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Translation: Sr. Amata J. Nowaszewska / Office for Foreign Communication

of the Polish Bishops’ Conference