Q — How have Catholics’ relationships with the Jews changed since Vatican II? Are there Catholic-Jewish talks locally?

A — The best way to answer this question is to acknowledge the book written jointly by Pope Francis and the Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka. The book, originally published in Argentina in 2010 and translated into English this year, is a series of conversations between the then Archbishop Jorge Maria Bergoglio and Rabbi Skorka. In his introduction the Rabbi writes: “One day we set a time and place so that we could just sit together and talk. The topic of discussion was life itself as seen through the prisms of local society, global concerns and the evidence of villainy and nobility that surround us. We spoke with complete intimacy…” Archbishop Bergoglio writes in his introduction to the book: “Rabbi Skorka and I have been able to dialogue, and it has done us good. I do not remember how our dialogue started, but I can remember that there were no barriers or reservations. His simplicity was without pretense, and this facilitated things.” Both men affirm that neither of them had to compromise their own religious identities. They simply spoke from the heart, and out of the religious tradition which they represented to a range of issues, including the following: God, atheists, religions, prayer, fundamentalism, death, the elderly, money, poverty, and finally the future of religion. Their responses are of absorbing interest.

The questioner asks: “How have Catholics’ relationships with the Jews changed since Vatican II?” Well, to put it very briefly and simply, such a book as this would not have been possible before Vatican II. There would have been little or no interest in it at the time. But what Vatican II has done for Catholics is this: without compromising Catholic/Christian identity, there has been a recognition in the words of the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and modeling the words of the English priest-poet John Donne, “No religion is an island entire of itself.” The relationships between Catholics and Jews since Vatican II are a product of God’s grace — which always heals, repairs relationships, promotes communion – and open-ended human response, the kind of response that we see in this book with its title On Heaven and Earth.

The questioner also asks, “Are there Catholic-Jewish talks locally?” I don’t possess a detailed picture of all that goes on, but I might point to the work that the archdiocesan Chancellor Mary Jo Tully does between Catholics and Jews, and also the talks given by a Jewish Rabbi quite regularly at our Cathedral.