The Heschel Center has begun its activities at the Catholic University of Lublin
The inauguration of The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations
Catholic University of Lublin
The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations – a new scientific, educational, and cultural unit to deepen Catholic-Jewish relations internationally – began its activities at the Catholic University of Lublin on Monday. Scientific research, publishing activities, student exchanges, as well as international symposia, conferences, debates and cultural events are the main tasks of the institution.
The inauguration of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin is a historic event, I am convinced that it is important not only for our University,” Rector of the Catholic University of Lublin Rev. Prof. Miroslaw Kalinowski stressed. “The pillars on which the Center’s activities are based can be summed up in a motto: Common Bible – Common Past – Common Future. They also relate to shared biblical roots, to the community of the history of both societies, as well as to the need to shape a future based on dialogue and openness to multiculturalism,” said the Rector of the Catholic University of Lublin.
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne wrote in a special letter for the occasion: “Focusing on research, the Centre will open up to questions related to Jewish history, culture and legacy as well as to Polish-Jewish relations over the centuries, including the present.”
The daughter of the Center’s patron, Professor Susannah Heschel, a researcher at Dartmouth College in the US, recalled her father’s most important ideas, including those concerning Christian-Jewish dialogue. “What you are doing is in line with my father’s message not to be indifferent to each other,” Prof. Heschel said.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who works for interreligious dialogue and has been friends with Pope Francis for many years, stressed that the Catholic University of Lublin – by creating the Heschel Center – is giving a positive response to the call to Jews and Catholics to change the course of history, and “to create the paths of dialogue that allow a future of understanding, peace, and affection”.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, recalled that the history of Christian-Jewish relations has been difficult, which is why dialogue between brotherly religions is of such great value. “Christian-Jewish dialogue is the first and most important dialogue, because it is a dialogue with our roots. We cannot have approach the teaching of Jesus Christ, if we are not aware of his Jewish roots,” the archbishop said.
In turn, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki stressed that the Heschel Center is the realization of the conciliar declaration “Nostra aetate” and the teaching of the Church expressed by successive popes. He also recalled the role of the Patron of the Catholic University of Lublin, Pope John Paul II, who is a role model in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. “He was the first pope to pray together with a rabbi for peace, the first pope to enter a synagogue and to visit the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. John Paul II was the first pope to pray at the Western Wall, asking God for forgiveness and mutual brotherhood.”
During the ceremony, which concluded with the presentation of appointments to the Board of Directors of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin and a speech by Cantor Symcha Keller, the Honorary Committee and the Center’s Scientific Council of the new institution were also introduced.
The Scientific Council and Honorary Committee included Rabbi Prof. Abraham Skorka of Argentina; Rabbi David Rosen, Director of Interreligious Relations of the American Jewish Committee; New York University Professor Rabbi Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman; Oxford University Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies Prof. Judith Olszowy-Schlanger; Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, a specialist of New Testament Studies E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville; Prof. Glenda Abramson of Oxford University; Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa; Prof. Slawomir Zurek, Director of the International Center for the Study of the History and Cultural Heritage of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe; and Prof. Yagil Limore of Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv.
The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin is a scientific and educational unit whose mission is to build Catholic-Jewish relations on the scientific, educational, and cultural levels on an international scale. The center combines research work, commemorating the past, educating and engaging young people, as well as shaping public awareness through modern media on a global scale.