SJU Office of Communications
Rabbi Abraham Skorka , a renowned scholar on interreligious dialogue and co-author with Pope Francis of On Heaven and Earth, will present a pair of discussions on Jewish views of other religions this spring. Skorka, a University professor and visiting scholar with the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph’s University, will begin the series by considering Jewish perspectives on Christianity on Monday, Jan. 27. A second event, focusing on Jewish views of Islam, is scheduled for Feb. 10.
Since joining Saint Joseph’s in the fall of 2018, Rabbi Skorka served for almost 20 years as the rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano Marshall T. Meyer in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During his time as rector, he hosted a series of televised discussions with the future Pope, then the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, on their views of each other’s faiths and how each applied to modern issues. The talks were later edited into On Heaven and Earth, which recently marked 10 years of publication. (more…)
By Abraham Skorka
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, December 22, 2019, p. 7.]
A look back at our human history confronts us, on the one hand, with many fabulous scientific and technical achievements and, on the other hand, with voracious self-destruction. The same genius that discovers and creates often seems unable to master its own harmful impulses.
The Book of Genesis describes how God blessed humanity to multiply and dominate the earth (1:28). But God went on to set a limit to remind human beings that they do not have absolute power over the created world. It was a very simple limit: to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Some Midrashic sages (Bereshit Rabbah 15:7) claimed that this fruit was a mere fig, while others proposed various other fruits. This diversity of opinion suggests that the narrative’s prohibition is more symbolic than literal. It is perhaps in the words of the serpent’s temptation that the deeper meaning of the prohibition is revealed. By eating that fruit, the serpent says, “you will be like gods, connoisseurs of good and evil” (3:5). The elimination of God’s presence from human reality, and substituting human beings who know good and evil for God, and are thus supposedly able to act without limit or restraint, is the temptation to which the archetypal human beings succumbed by transgressing the only rule that God had given. (more…)
In November 2019, Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka (University Professor at Saint Joseph’s University) discussed the significance of the upcoming Hanukkah and Christmas seasons. They spoke of recent outbursts of prejudice and violence in many countries, including antisemitic attacks and hostility toward migrants, as incompatible with the vision of religious freedom and universal peace of the two holydays. Rabbi Skorka has written a short article about the discussion HERE. See below for the video; the conversation is underway as the video begins …
Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka recall the publication of On Heaven and Earth
In this recently recorded video, Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka reminisce about their many conversations that occurred in Buenos Aires in 2009-2010. At the time, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and Rabbi Skorka, rector of the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano, decided to assemble their dialogues into a book. It was later published in English as On Heaven and Earth.
As they now discuss their book, their warm friendship and rapport is obvious. Rabbi Skorka, currently University Professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, notes how the book, translated into many languages, has become a model for interreligious dialogue around the world. Pope Francis observes that, once published, a book takes on a life of its own. He goes on to call for more and more theological dialogue between Jews and Christians.
A conversation with Rabbi Abraham Skorka
by Andre Mondal
13 November 2019, p. 1 [unofficial translation from Italian]
Unscheduled words, spoken by the Pope at January 26, 2020 general audience, touched the heart of Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who was visiting the editorial staff of L’Osservatore Romano.
“This unexpected and impromptu comment of the Pope is of supreme importance: it reflects his deep commitment to the Jewish people. They are words that arouse in me great emotions and a sense of gratitude, bearing in mind the long history of misunderstandings between the Church and Jews. After so many years I know the Pope’s way of thinking and feeling, and I know that he very often digs deeply and, as he would say, says what comes from the bottom of his heart. This type of intervention on his part is certainly not new, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have great importance, especially in a historical moment like the present one.” (more…)
A Conversation that Changed History
The Meeting of Saint Pope John XXIII and Professor Jules Isaac, June 13, 1960
Professor Jules Isaac was an esteemed French historian and educational leader by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. When in 1940 the Vichy government imposed antisemitic policies modelled on Nazi legislation, he began studying what he came to call the Christian “teaching of contempt” for Jews. During his research he suffered the loss of his wife Laure and daughter Juliette to the Auschwitz gas chambers, but was urged by Laure to persist in his labors in a note she managed to send: “take care of yourself, have confidence and finish your work, the world is waiting for it.” In 1947, he published the important 600-page work Jésus et Israel. He brought the manuscript with him to the “Emergency Conference on Antisemitism” held that year in Seelisberg, Switzerland, which largely shaped the influential “Ten Points of Seelisberg” that the conference issued.
After newly elected Pope John XXIII announced on January 25, 1959 the convening of the Second Vatican Council, Isaac worked with the French ambassador to the Holy See to arrange an audience. Thus, on June 13, 1960, Isaac met privately with the pope to present his research and to request that a subcommittee be appointed to examine Catholic teaching about Jews in preparation for the Council. As they parted, Isaac asked if he could take away “a glimmer of hope.” Good Pope John exclaimed, “You are entitled to more than a hope!” (more…)
[Published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, September 30, 2019, p. 6.]
By Abraham Skorka
According to Jewish tradition, at the beginning of each Hebrew year God judges every individual, all peoples and nations, and all humanity. The Holy One determines their destinies. But through repentance, prayer, and charity, a severe judgment can be changed. The basis of the celebration of Rosh Hashanah rests upon some key elements of the Jewish faith: the gifts that God has bestowed on each human being of free will and of the ability to regret and amend errors. When a person makes proper use of these capabilities to improve their behavior, God helps them by forgiving their mistakes. The Jewish New Year is the time on the Hebrew calendar when each Jew prays for himself or herself and for all humankind that everyone will do what God desires with firm resolution.
In the Torah, this holyday is the day when the Shofar or ram’s horn is blown (Numbers 29:1), according to the rabbinic interpretation of the verse (Rosh Hashanah 33, b). The sounding of the Shofar appears several times in the Bible, but two mentions are especially significant. It is the sound that accompanied the revelation of God to the Jewish people gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:19). According to Isaiah 27:13, it will be the sound that all will hear at the time of redemption. These two images are deeply associated with the essence of this holyday. The Jew enters into a special dialogue with the One God who has created everything, who knows the feelings and actions of each individual, who judges with mercy, and who will redeem each one in the future. (more…)
PHILADELPHIA – Dialogue and encounter have been two of the popular buzzwords of the Francis papacy, but for one of the pope’s major interreligious interlocutors, they are more than mere maxims, they are a way of life.
For two decades, Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka have been friends – brothers, in fact – which is how he still addresses his old pal via e-mail or phone calls when they speak.
The two first met in 1997 in Buenos Aires and struck up a friendship initially over sports but one that would lead to a co-authored book and a series of public dialogues on a range of hot button issues from sex to death and everything in between.
Less than 24 hours after the pope returned from Africa – where on the return flight to Rome, Francis said he welcomes honest criticism as a means of dialogue, but sought to distinguish it from his critics who he said are motivated by their political ideologies – I sat down with Skorka in his office at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia where he is now a Professor in the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations to tease out the pope’s words a bit further.
By Claudia McDonnell
Jewish and Catholic leaders met in a spirit of joy and cooperation at a 25th anniversary celebration marking the Vatican’s recognition of the State of Israel. The historic step began with the signing of the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel, which established diplomatic relations between the Church and the Jewish state. The formal opening took place June 15, 1994.
The June 19 event at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus was sponsored by the Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cardinal Dolan was one of four panelists who spoke about the significance of the agreement and its transformative effects on Catholic-Jewish relations.
“For both Jews and Christians,” he said, “humanity is on the right path when human agreements mirror the divine will, and that’s what we believe occurred a quarter-century ago, when the leaders of the government of Israel and the Church universal signed an agreement stressing reconciliation, trust, the priority of dialogue—all grounded in human rights and religious liberty.
Also serving on the panel were Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; Ambassador Dani Dayan, consul general of the Consulate General of Israel in New York; and Adam Gregerman, associate professor of theology and religious studies and co-director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. (more…)
June 21, 2019
NEW YORK – Reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and Israel, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan hailed the occasion as an international achievement that has “quite literally made the world a better place.”
Dolan’s remarks came during a panel discussion on “The Vatican Israel Accords: 25 Years of Progress and Challenge” held at Fordham University on Wednesday, marking the Fundamental Agreement signed between the Holy See and the State of Israel in 1993, leading to full diplomatic relations in 1994.
The event was co-sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Consulate General of Israel in New York, and along with Dolan, speakers included Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General in New York; Archbishop Bernardito Auza, papal nuncio to the United Nations; and Dr. Adam Gregerman, the co-director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University.