Bishop meets with Jewish and Muslim leaders

Bishop meets with Jewish and Muslim leaders

jewish-webHolocaust survivor Charles Middleberg speaks to Bishop Dennis Sullivan in the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill on Nov. 21.

Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com

CHERRY HILL – A week before Thanksgiving, Bishop Dennis Sullivan for the first time met with Jewish and Muslim leaders of South Jersey, re-affirming the Diocese of Camden’s commitment to work in dialogue with non-Christians.
On Nov. 21, Bishop Sullivan first met with local Jewish leaders at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill. After touring the facility, he sat with the leadership of the Jewish Federation and was briefed on the work of the Catholic-Jewish Commission of Southern New Jersey, and the Formal Agreement of Understanding between the two communities.
“We’re pleased to welcome Bishop Sullivan,” said Alan Respler, co-founder of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “His visit is another step in the ongoing journey of developing relations between the two communities.”
Bishop Sullivan recalled how, when he was a pastor at St. Teresa’s Church in New York on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he leaned on the nearby Educational Alliance, a Jewish social services agency, after a ceiling collapse damaged his church.
For six months, and during the Christmas season, the Educational Alliance allowed the St. Teresa community to use their facility for services. “I am indebted to them,” Bishop Sullivan said.
The Camden leader also met Charles Middleberg, a Holocaust survivor whose parents were taken from him by the German army during World War II.
Taken in by a Catholic family, and aided by them and a Catholic priest, Middleberg temporarily converted to Catholicism and has never forgotten their kindness. “I am thrilled, tremendously” to meet Bishop Sullivan, Middleberg said.

muslim-webLeft photo: Bishop Sullivan and Father Joseph Wallace, coordinator of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, stand with members of the Catholic-Muslim Commission of Southern New Jersey, at the Muslim American Community Association Mosque in Voorhees.After his visit with the Jewish community, Bishop Sullivan met with representatives of the local Muslim community at the Muslim American Community Association Mosque in Voorhees, where the Catholic-Muslim Commission of Southern New Jersey formalized their Agreement of Understanding.

 

 

Photo by Asim Shafi

 

Referencing the 1965 Vatican II Document Nostra Aetate (“In Our Age”), Bishop Sullivan said, “Catholics and Muslims here in South Jersey recognize our common history of faith rooted in the faith of Abraham.”
He asked God to “continue to inspire in us mutual respect, understanding and love,” so that the two communities can “fulfill God’s desire that Christians and Muslims should live in peace with one another and live the example of our common values for the benefit of all here in Southern New Jersey.”
“We must be people of dialogue, one that binds us in a positive acceptance, interaction and cooperation,” he said.
Nostra Aetate said the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions, called for an end to anti-Semitism and said any discrimination based on race, color, religion or condition of life is foreign to the mind of Christ.
Bishop Sullivan, accompanied by Father Joseph Wallace, coordinator of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs for the Diocese of Camden, presented both the Jewish and Muslim communities with two gifts, one being a framed copy of the Prayer of St. Francis, and the other a medallion from Bishop Sullivan’s February installation, emblazoned with his coat of arms.
In turn, the Jewish community presented the bishop with a tzedakah box, a symbol of Jewish charity, and the Muslim community presented him with a framed copy of a passage from the Koran, which tells how Allah announced to Mary that she would carry the prophet Jesus.

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