Flowing from the Catholic and Ignatian identity of Saint Joseph’s University, the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations seeks to increase knowledge and deepen understanding between the Jewish and Catholic communities.
Established shortly after the Second Vatican Council, the Institute is inspired by the spirit of reconciliation and friendship expressed by Pope Saint John XXIII to a Jewish delegation at the Vatican: “I am Joseph, your brother!” (Genesis 45:4). The Institute is motivated by the spirit of Pope Saint John Paul II who not only declared “that the path along which we [Catholics] should proceed with the Jewish religious community is one of fraternal dialogue and fruitful collaboration,” but who during the Great Jubilee of 2000 formally offered to God the following prayer of penitence and commitment at St. Peter’s Basilica and at Jerusalem’s Western Wall:
God of our fathers,
you chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring Your name to the nations:
we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer,
and asking Your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.
The transformation in relations between Jews and Catholics that has unfolded since the Shoah and the Second Vatican Council has given rise to questions rarely considered since New Testament times. Recognizing that their interrelationship touches on the respective identities of the Jewish and Catholic communities, and keenly aware of the long history of theological antipathy between them, the Institute is committed to academic research and education in Christian-Jewish and especially Catholic-Jewish relations. The Institute supports and its staff participates in several national and international research and dialogue initiatives.
It is also dedicated to promoting opportunities for Jews and Catholics to be “study partners,” teaching and learning about themselves and each other by studying and experiencing together texts, rituals, events, and places. For this reason the Institute is directed by two professors in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. They also team-teach each semester and collaborate on research and writing projects. While this scholarly work involves history, literature, sociology, psychology, and other disciplines, the Institute is especially committed to study and education about the theologies that shape Catholic and Jewish self-understanding in relation to the other community.
The Institute’s purpose to increase knowledge and deepen understanding has been powerfully reiterated by Pope Francis, who has emphasized the importance of "our mutual desire to know one another better, to listen to each other and to build bonds of true fraternity ... This journey of friendship ... which has been made in recent decades in the relationship between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift of God, one of those great works for which we are called to bless his holy name." Pope Francis' close friendship with Rabbi Abraham Skorka embodies the new Catholic-Jewish relationship.
Therefore, the Institute is committed to sincere and honest interreligious dialogue in which there is no intention to convert or persuade but only to learn from and enrich each other. Dialogue and shared learning experiences enrich and deepen the respective identities of Jews and Catholics, empowering them to work together for social justice, respect for the rights of persons and nations, and for social and international reconciliation.