Thursday, May 11, 2006

O'Malleyizing the Elder Brethren

As many Boston Catholics celebrate Bishop Richard Lennon's departure for the diocese of Cleveland, where he'll be installed on Monday, the city's archbishop spent last night delivering a watershed policy speech -- a further sign of his renewed emergence in the Beantown community. (Some video, too.)
In his first public remarks on Catholic-Jewish relations, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley last night said the spirit of God was behind Catholic efforts to purge their religion of centuries of anti-Semitic teaching and traditions. He vowed there would be no retreat from the declarations of kinship between the two faiths that began with the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and deepened under the late Pope John Paul II.
Don't expect the cardinal to be getting flowers from Econe anytime soon.
''We urge all Catholics to more deeply understand the Jewish roots of our religion," O'Malley told a crowd of about 400 people -- including Jewish activists, rabbis, priests, Boston firefighters, and Catholic parishioners -- in his talk at Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton....

O'Malley -- who some say has lacked political finesse in handling moral and financial problems afflicting the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston -- skillfully wove together rabbi-priest jokes and quotations from Jewish and Catholic fighters for social justice and coexistence.

An introductory gag about a rabbi and priest who survived a traffic accident led sharply to one of his main points.

''Many people might describe relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community as a terrible car crash," O'Malley said, ''but we have survived, and God wants us to be friends."

He said bluntly that ''too many Christians did not have the courage of their convictions" in the face of the Nazi Holocaust, and ''too many were seduced by the racism and nationalism" that led to the slaughter of European Jews, but he also noted instances of heroic efforts of some Catholics to shelter Jews.
We'll be seeing more of this on the papal trip to Poland, which begins two weeks from today and includes a stop at Auschwitz.