Catholic-Jewish gathering remembers Kristallnacht, addresses recent violence in Holy Land

It was on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when members of the Nazi party sponsored anti-Jewish riots (pogroms) which attacked Jewish persons and destroyed Jewish owned property in Germany and Austria. Known as “Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass,” this event is regarded by historians as “the Night the Holocaust began” in Europe, which ultimately led to the murder of more than six million Jews.

To remember those events and to stand united in saying “Always Remember!” “Never Forget!” and “Never Again!” the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County hosted its 20th annual “Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass” on Nov. 5, 2023, at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. The event was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, GenShoah of SWFL, and the Holocaust Museum and Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center.

On behalf of the Diocese, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said it is necessary to come together to remember Kristallnacht and the Holocaust which followed, but the commemoration takes place in a global context. This is as the world witnesses the contemporary events of the Oct. 7 terror attacks by Hamas on Israeli citizens, as well as an alarming rise of anti-Semitism nationally and within the Diocese of Venice.

“In the present global setting, dialogue, diplomacy, and reaching understanding are more difficult and yet ever more needed,” Bishop Dewane said. “Finding receptive ears that listen to the voices that express nuanced perspective, however, is a challenge. The present circumstances give possible rise to disagreements between Catholics and Jews if we are not careful and attentive.”

With its purpose to engage Jews and Catholics in understanding their past history and advancing the causes of mutual understanding and appreciation of their differences as well as their commonalities, Bishop Dewane praised the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue and its important work.

Bishop Dewane stressed how Pope Francis, a lifelong promoter of Catholic-Jewish relations, immediately and unequivocally condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 brutal violence, and called for the immediate release of hostages, and further supported Israel’s right to self-defense.

“We must all pray that world leaders find just solutions that lead to peace,” Bishop Dewane said. “There is a futility of war. It has no victors, only victims. We must all pursue the gift of peace by any means possible.”

Further, the Bishop said it is not in anyone’s interest to allow the forces of violence and hatred to ignite resentment among people of faith and silence the moral voice of religion.

“The spiritual bonds that unite us through the One True God must be observed. It must allow us to speak candidly to one another, and to stand together for justice, peace, and freedom of humankind,” the Bishop concluded.

Nearly 1,000 attended the commemoration, which included calls for peace and unity among the people of the world. There were also prayers for the victims of the Holocaust and Oct. 7 attacks, as well as for all who are subjected to religious persecution.

A poignant moment during the annual commemoration was a candle lighting ceremony. Six candles were lit by Gen Shoah (second and third generation Holocaust survivors). Each lit their candle for the victims of the Holocaust and for a brighter future. A seventh candle was lit for the victims of the Oct. 7 terror attacks.

In addition, Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer, of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands in Sanibel, shared the story of how the Torah – the books of the Hebrew Bible – was a survivor of the Holocaust from the present-day Czech Republic, and was then spared damage during Hurricane Ian in September 2022 when the island and temple were flooded.

The event’s keynote was by Rabbi David Maayan, assistant director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Tampa. The topic: “Theologies of the ‘Other’: Catholics and Jews After the Holocaust.”

The commemoration concluded with the singing of “God Bless America,” and Bishop Dewane leading everyone in a moment of silence for peace.

Among the dignitaries participating in the commemoration were, Michael A. Feldman, co-founder of the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida; Dr. Nat Ritter, Board Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples; Marty Gauthier, Dialogue Catholic co-chair; Yvonne Holtzman, Dialogue Jewish co-chair and member of Gen Shoah; Rabbi Ariel Boxman of Temple Shalom; Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer, Bat Yam Temple of the Islands; Shelley Lieb, co-chair of Gen Shoah; Rabbi Adam Miller, Temple Shalom; Rabbi Ammos Chorny, Beth Tikvah; Father Robert Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples; Father Robert Garrity, of Ave Maria University; and Father Casey Jones, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton, the host Parish. Also present were more than two dozen youth who are in the Confirmation program at St. Agnes Parish.

Kristallnacht Holocaust commemoration Nov. 5 in Naples

Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County hosts visiting scholar, Holocaust remembrance for “Night of Broken Glass”

The Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County (CJD) invites the community to its annual commemorative service of Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass,” which historians consider the beginning of the Holocaust.

The free public event takes place on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway in Naples.

Kristallnacht recounts the attacks on Jewish communities throughout Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938. The Kristallnacht commemorative event memorializes the six million Jews and millions of others who were exterminated during the Holocaust.

“For more than 20 years, members of our two faiths have gathered together in search of a deeper understanding of the forces that bring us together, not drive us apart,” said Ginny Segaloff, chair of the commemoration program. “And a full 85 years later, amid growing antisemitism and violent hate crimes, the lessons of the Holocaust remain as vital – and necessary – as ever.”

The event’s speaker will be Rabbi David Maayan, assistant director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Tampa. The topic: Theologies of the “Other”: Catholics and Jews After the Holocaust.

The CJD is affiliated with Jewish Federation of Greater Naples and the Collier County Parishes of the Diocese of Venice. Its purpose is to engage Catholics and Jews in understanding history and advancing the cause of mutual understanding and appreciation of differences as well as commonalities.

The event, which is marking its return to in-person gatherings after several years as virtual-only, is sponsored by CJD, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, the Diocese of Venice in Florida, GenShoah of SWFL, and the Holocaust Museum & Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center. The host location rotates annually between Jewish temples and community centers and Catholic Parishes.

All are welcome, and advance registration is requested at https://jfgn.regfox.com/kristallnacht-2023-program.

 

 

News Briefs from the week of Nov. 25, 2022

Fort Myers Rabbi given Papal Knighthood

Rabbi A. James Rudin, co-founder of the St. Leo University’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, became only the third American rabbi in history to be honored with the Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory for his work in interfaith relations at St. Leo University on Nov. 20, 2022. Rabbi Rudin, who is from Fort Myers, received the medal of the Order of St. Gregory from Auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell, of the Archdiocese of Boston. The investiture ceremony was conducted on behalf of Pope Francis in recognition of Rudin’s decades of work in building positive Catholic-Jewish relations throughout the world, fostering interreligious dialogue and understanding. Rabbi Rudin has spoken several times at interreligious gatherings within the Diocese of Venice, including the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration in Venice, as well as the Kristallnacht commemoration in Naples. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was among the honored guests for the investiture. Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, originally was to conduct the ceremony on behalf of Pope Francis, but was unable to attend. The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies was co-founded by Bishop John J. Nevins, founding Bishop of the Diocese of Venice.

“Blessings Bags” for Our Mother’s House

Girl Scout Troop 71404, which is located in North Royalton, Ohio, and is composed of 16 kindergarten girls who recently had a lesson on hurricanes, made “Blessings Bags” for moms and kids in the Diocese of Venice after hearing about Hurricane Ian.  The girls made 46 bags including 13 bags for moms with personal hygiene items, six bags for babies including items such as pacifiers, rattles, and hooded bath towels, and 27 bags for children, which included toys, writing pads, and crayons. The “Blessings Bags” were distributed to moms, babies and kids at Our Mother’s House in Venice on Nov. 17, 2022. The Catholic Charities programs provides residential support for new mothers who might otherwise be homeless. Upon receiving the “Blessing bags,” Shannon Hoyt, Our Mother’s House Program Manager said, “What an amazing, thoughtful thing for them to do! Thank you so much!”

Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29, 2022) has been traditionally recognized as Giving Tuesday, when people switch from their frenetic Christmas shopping to give back to local charities. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. (www.catholiccharitiesdov.org), as well as each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools (https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-school/) are participating in this Giving Tuesday. Many of these organizations have challenges which can multiply your donation and better benefit a school or program. Please consider giving on Giving Tuesday.

Parish celebrates cultural diversity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers celebrated a multicultural Mass on Nov. 20, 2022, the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Prior to the Mass, women of the Vietnamese Catholic community performed a ceremonial dance in honor of Christ the King. The Mass included readings in Spanish, Filipino, and English, and music from each of the cultures. This Mass was originally scheduled for early October but was delayed due to the destruction caused to the Fort Myers area during Hurricane Ian. The celebration was one way to mark the ongoing recovery as well the diversity and unity of the Universal Church.

Students make blankets for the homeless

As part of a Reverse Advent Calendar Project, eighth graders at St. Martha Catholic spent the week before their Thanksgiving break making blankets for the homeless. A special thank you to the local JoAnn Fabric stores for making the fabric for the blankets available.

Science, art and food enhance classroom lesson

As part of a biology class at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Nov. 16, 2022, students created a 3-D representative of a eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell, with a twist. The goal of the project was to develop and use the model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and showed ways that parts of cells contribute to the function. Then they ate the cells which were created out of a variety of food. This unique project was developed by teacher Elaina Gianello who used various aspects of the STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math) curriculum to make the lesson more engaging for the students.

Safety patrol recognized for hard work

The Safety Patrol team at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton received a surprise visit on Nov. 16, 2022, from deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Each Safety Patrol member was presented with a Junior Deputy Badge and AAA Certificate. A Sheriff’s representative spoke to the Safety Patrol member to recognize the hard work and commitment these fourth-grade students have put into their positions.

Students make prayer ropes

Bishop Verot Catholic High School theology students in Fort Myers recently learned about prayer ropes and made them during an outdoor lesson on Nov. 15, 2022. These ropes are typically made with intricate knots, 33 of them to be specific – one for each year of Jesus’ life. A prayer rope is a loop made up of complex woven knots formed in a cross pattern, usually out of wool or silk. The students learned a little more about this tradition and got to enjoy some time outside of the classroom in the process during their theology class. Most commonly part of the practice of Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns, the prayer ropes are used to count the number of times one has prayed to Jesus.

Catholic-Jewish gathering remembers start of Holocaust

It was on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when members of the Nazi party sponsored anti-Jewish riots (pogroms) which attacked Jewish persons and destroyed Jewish owned property in Germany and Austria. “Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass” is regarded by historians as “the Night the Holocaust began” in Europe, which ultimately led to the murder of more than six million Jews.

To remember those events, the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County hosted its annual “Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass” Nov. 5, 2022, at Temple Shalom in Naples. The event was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, GenShoah of SWFL, and the Holocaust Museum and Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center.

On behalf of the Diocese, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said it is necessary to come together to remember Kristallnacht and the Holocaust which followed. But this year’s gathering was held in the context of a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents including the placing of lawn signs in communities throughout Naples, Collier County and the entire Diocese of Venice.

“Unfortunately, we need to acknowledge this inhumane unchristian rebirth that we have evidenced in Southwest Florida – of anti-Semitism,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Bishop said Catholic and Jewish peoples have a common parentage which bond the two together. The coming together through the Dialogue allows for open discussion which ultimately prevents misunderstandings and mistrust, fostering a way for the two faiths to see each other with a deep amount of respect.

“Each one of us has a responsibility to take action when we see anti-Semitism,” Bishop Dewane continued. “It isn’t just for the Dialogue group to resolve. It isn’t just for a Parish or synagogue. It’s for all of us to come together when we see the negativity that can rears its head, just as it did so many years ago when Kristallnacht foreshadowed what the world never thought could happen (the Holocaust) – and it did happen. You and I have responsibilities to speak out and to speak up.”

The guest speaker was Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Director of the International Academics Programs Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and her topic was “November 1938: Perspective from the Vatican Archives.”

In her talk, focused on the month following Kristallnacht, Brown-Fleming said a certain context was needed, reminding the audience that the groundbreaking 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), which redefined the relationship between the Church and other non-Christian faiths, was years away. Nostra Aetate importantly states that what happened in the Passion of Christ “cannot be charged against the Jews then alive, nor against the Jews today.”

Brown-Fleming cited several diplomatic and personal reports sent to and from the Vatican regarding Kristallnacht as well as correspondence from the faithful, who were almost all blatantly anti-Semitic, blaming the Jewish people for the death of Christ, and because of this, saw little reason to help the Jews in Germany or elsewhere.

In the end, Brown-Fleming said the Vatican was “not willing to aggressively condemn the Nazi action against the Jews, but only to authorize on behalf of the Pope a reminder of the Church of the mission to aid the suffering and the persecuted. It is quite an understatement to say this response in these troubling times was not enough.” She noted much has changed since Nostra Aetate.

A poignant moment during the annual commemoration was a candle lighting ceremony. Six candles were lit by Gen Shoah (second generation Holocaust survivors). Each lit their candle for the victims of the Holocaust and for a brighter future.

Among the dignitaries present for the commemoration were, Michael A. Feldman, co-founder of the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida; Rabbi Adam Miller, Temple Shalom; Jane Schiff, Board Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples; Marty Gauthier, Dialogue Catholic co-chair; Luba Rotsztain, Dialogue Jewish co-chair; Rabbi Mark Gross, Jewish Congregation of Marco Island; Rabbi Ammos Chorny, Beth Tikvah; Father Robert Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples; and Yvonne Holtzman, Candle Lighting Chair, Dialogue member and Gen Shoah. Also present were more than two dozen youth who are in the Confirmation program at St. Agnes Parish.

The Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County has been working together for 21 years with the purpose of engaging Catholics and Jews in understanding our past history and advancing the cause of mutual understanding and appreciation of our differences, as well as our commonalities.

Bishop speaks out against hate

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was among a group of religious leaders who spoke out against hate during an Aug. 23, 2022, Venice City Council meeting.

The City Council approved a proposed proclamation condemning a June 25 incident during which anti-Semitic flyers were distributed to lawns and driveways of residential homes in the City of Venice. Shortly after the that disturbing event, Venice Mayor Ron Feinsod received an e-mail in the form of anti-Semitism hate mail.

Bishop Dewane supported the City Council proclamation, expressing the need to both condemn and prevent all acts of hate, saying “anti-Semitism is simply unacceptable. It must not be tolerated. Let us work together to prevent hate in all its forms, in our words, in our deeds, and in our prayers.”

In response to the June incident, Bishop Dewane drafted a letter to the editor, which was subsequently published in local newspapers and appeared in the July 15 e-edition of the Florida Catholic (https://dioceseofvenice.org/bishop-condemns-hateful-acts-of-anti-semitism/.) In that letter, the Bishop called such incidents of anti-Semitism disheartening and disturbing.

Since the start of 2022, similar anti-Semitic incidents have taken place not only in Venice, but Punta Gorda, Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota. The Bishop has been vocal in his outrage against such incidents and is a staunch supporter of the Jewish people.

“The Diocese of Venice has tremendous compassion and empathy for what has occurred in the history of the Jewish people and has always valued and indeed cherished its longstanding relationship with the Jewish Community,” Bishop Dewane said. “An emphasis has been placed on deepening our shared roots, the teaching of tolerance in our schools and Parishes, and fostering interreligious friendships.”

Among those speaking out at the Venice City Council meeting was Pieter Kohnstam of Venice, a Holocaust survivor who knew Anne Frank, her having been his babysitter while they lived in the same building as children in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The proclamation, which was proposed during the first City Council meeting since June, stated that the rise in anti-Semitism throughout Venice, the county, the state and the country is both offensive and deplorable. “The contents of the flyers and the e-mail violate our sense of common decency and moral behavior. These incidents have created concern and outrage in our community, which is founded on our nation’s principals of protecting individual rights, including freedom of religion.”

The Proclamation concluded with the statement, “We, the people of the City of Venice do hereby declare that all forms of hate, racism and anti-Semitism are considered an attack on every citizen and visitor to our great city.”

Other religious leaders were also present to speak out against hatred. Once passed, a copy of the Proclamation was presented to Kohnstam.

Bishop condemns hateful acts of anti-Semitism

Bishop Frank J. Dewane calls on Catholics to condemn and work to prevent hateful anti-Semitic acts in the wake of a recent spate of hateful flyers showing up at homes across the Diocese of Venice.

Incidents taking place throughout June 2022 in Venice, Punta Gorda, Naples and Fort Myers, where flyers were placed on the doors of homes containing anti-Semitic vitriol, come on the heels of similar incidents in Sarasota in early 2022.

As in the case of the Sarasota incident, and in all cases of public anti-Semitism, Bishop Dewane has been quick to condemn these acts, calling them disheartening and disturbing.

In a show of support with the Jewish people and in response to these latest incidents, letters to the editor from the Bishop have appeared in several local newspapers in the region calling on all to join him in condemning these hateful acts.

Bishop Dewane noted that Pope Francis spoke recently about “this ‘escalation of evil’ in the world and identified an antidote. ‘The antidote to this escalation of evil is remembrance of the past… of its wars … of countless other atrocities.’” In the words of Bishop Dewane, “Let us remember!”

In the letter, the Bishop Dewane wrote: “The Diocese of Venice has tremendous compassion and empathy for what has occurred in the history of the Jewish people and has always valued and indeed cherished its longstanding relationship with the Jewish Community. An emphasis has been placed on deepening our shared roots, the teaching of tolerance in our schools and Parishes, and fostering interreligious friendships.”

As the letter to the editor states: “Anti-Semitism is simply unacceptable. It must not be tolerated. Let us work together to prevent hate in all its forms, in our words, in our deeds, and in our prayers.”

“Pope’s Rabbi” shares stories of friendship, interreligious dialogue

A friendship lasting a quarter-century finds its roots in the Second Vatican Council Declaration Nostrae Aetate (On the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), the important document that called for a fresh and positive relationship between the Catholic and Jewish Faiths.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Pope Francis have served as examples of friendship and interreligious dialogue because they have lived out the call of Nostrae Aetate which acknowledges the Church’s bond with the Jewish people.

Rabbi Skorka was the keynote speaker at the April 3, 2022, gathering of the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. The presentation was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples.

“One of the values I learned from my parents and grandparents was that speech between peoples should reflect the way that people ought to relate to each other with moderation, sincerity and honesty,” Rabbi Skorka explained, noting that the friendship with Pope Francis began as an open exchange of ideas with then Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Rabbi Skorka was the leading Rabbi in Argentina as Rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano (Latin American Rabbinical Seminary), in Buenos Aires.

The Rabbi explained that the Holocaust, and its lasting impacts, was a reality that marked his being since childhood.

“The travails of the Jewish people took palpable form in my family which was decimated by the massacre (of the Holocaust). It was not merely historical fact as a Jew I should remember; what stays with me was the sadness which overwhelmed the members of my family and the many members of the community in which I was a part. The Shoah and anti-Semitism were not simply recounted to me; it was an experience that also shaped me by being imparted by many who suffered in their native Europe.”

When he began his rabbinical studies, Rabbi Skorka learned a great deal about Nostrae Aetate, which was released in 1965 by St. John XIII. While the document was short, it served as a profound and absolute apology for years of divisiveness between the Catholic and Jewish faiths.

Inspired by the knowledge and understanding that no religion is an island, Rabbi Skorka openly wrote about the need for interfaith dialogue. One such article brought the Rabbi and Archbishop into contact, forming a lasting bond centered on the belief that the only way to overcome hatred was through the encounter of the members of different religions and cultures.

The Rabbi went on to say that Pope Francis has a profound ability to identify with the Jewish experience. This was evident in his instinctive understanding from the very beginning that dialogue between Catholics and Jews would become untenable if Catholics harbored any thought of “converting” Jews to Jesus Christ.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane also addressed the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue gathering, talking about the noble mission of the group.

Bishop Dewane said that the advancement of Catholic-Jewish relations comes directly from Nostrae Aetate, which should be celebrated. The document changed the landscape of the Church and was done with prudence and love, started a completely new conversation within the Catholic Church.

This new moment in the Church’s history had its roots in a renewed study of Hebrew and Christian Scripture and other theological developments that had occurred at the Second Vatican Council.

Bishop Dewane explained how Pope John Paul II led a revolution that transformed relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to visit a Jewish synagogue and the Western Wall. He then established diplomatic relations with Israel, applying the term “beloved elder brothers” when referring to the Jews.”

The Bishop explained that the development of Nostrae Aetate’s principle themes reshaped specific expression of Catholic Teaching, which had posed obstacles to Jewish-Catholic relations.

“The long road ahead is marked by our two communities of faith in a relatively short time since the Second Vatican Council and has yielded immense fruit and I believe there are practical ways in which we can build on these developments,” Bishop Dewane continued. “We need to share our concerns on an increasingly hostile culture and especially a growing antagonism toward people of faith… We can find a common purpose in standing up against these acts as people of faith… Any one act against faith is too much. We all need to speak up, each one within our tradition, within our faith perspective. In this environment we face today we must also see increased positive collaboration to deepen friendships as we moved forward together.”

Michael Feldman, member of the Catholic Jewish-Dialogue served as the program emcee. Other speakers included Rabbi Frank Muller, Father Bob Kantor of St. Agnes Parish, as well as Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Co-Chairs Luba Rotsztain and Martin Gauthier.

“Pope’s Rabbi” coming to Naples April 3

The Catholic Jewish Dialogue of Collier County is honored to present Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the “Pope’s Rabbi,” for a talk about his ongoing 25-year friendship with Pope Francis.

All are invited to attend the program which is co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples. The presentation will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 3, 2022, in the ballroom of St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples. Doors open at 2:30 p.m.

Rabbi Skorka will describe his 25-year “deep and sincere friendship” with Pope Francis, dating to when then-Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Bergoglio was elevated and appointed as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time of their first meeting, Rabbi Skorka was the leading Rabbi in Argentina as Rector of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano (Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, in Buenos Aires.

The friendship, which continues to this day, began a dialogue that became an important component of both their personal lives and responsibilities as clergy. They collaborated in writing a book and engaged in 31 television discussions.

According to Rabbi Skorka, “Our personal dialogues had taken on the mission of spreading a culture of dialogue throughout society in as many ways as possible.”

In an interview with Richard Price of the Catholic Jewish-Dialogue of Collier County, Rabbi Skorka shared how he and the future Pope began their lasting friendship.

“In the beginning, there were differences between our ages and positions,” the Rabbi said. “My title as Seminary Rector was hardly on a par with the Archbishop of one of the most important Catholic communities in the world. It was he who overcame this disparity by unreservedly opening himself up to me. He paved the way. We not only began to dialogue but, most importantly, we began to work to spread the practice of dialogue in all aspects of our lives and responsibilities.”

A turning point in the friendship and ongoing dialogue occurred in 2004, when Rabbi Skorka invited then-Cardinal Bergoglio to deliver a message to his synagogue community, in anticipation of the day of Rosh Hashanah.

“His message to my synagogue in 2004 went on to develop the idea of the encounter between the individual and God, and of the importance of memory in that relationship. He alluded to the essence of Jewish belief expressed during this most holy season, the Days of Awe: to believe in the Creator who relates to each person and remembers each individual. In fact, I was astonished to hear this sermon. (His) message on this occasion could well have been the reflections of a Rabbi to his community.”

The Rabbi went on to say that Pope Francis has a profound ability to identify with the Jewish experience. This was evident in his instinctive understanding from the very beginning that dialogue between Catholics and Jews would become untenable if Catholics harbored any thought of “converting” Jews to Jesus Christ.

“As he would say years later as Pope Francis, ‘There was a basis of total trust [between us], because we knew in our conversations—and I want to highlight this—neither of us negotiated our own identity. If we had, we would not have been able to talk. It would have been a sham. … Neither of us attempted to convert the other.’ I cannot overstate the importance of this sensitivity, which is a pre-condition for the mutually enriching dialogue that he and I experienced,” Rabbi Skorka concluded.

For those interested in hearing more of this story, please consider attending the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County presentation of Rabbi Skorka on 3 p.m. Sunday, April 3, 2022, in the ballroom of St. John the Evangelist Parish. Tickets are $18 in advance and are available by visiting https://jfgn.regfox.com/rabbi-skorka. Note: if seats are available on the day of the program, tickets will be sold at the door for $25.

Bishop speaks out on anti-Semitism

February 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the years the Diocese of Venice has cherished its relationship with the Jewish Community. Thus, recent reports of anti-Semitic incidents within the Diocese of Venice, particularly in Sarasota County, are disturbing. Anti-Semitic flyers were distributed to more than a hundred homes in several Sarasota neighborhoods Feb. 11, 2022. This is on the heels of similar incidents last month.

I ask the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice to join me in condemning these despicable acts. Hate is never to be tolerated. Pope Francis said anti-Semitism is “a fuse that must not be allowed to burn. And the best way to defuse it is to work together, positively, and to promote fraternity.” Let us be united in prayer.

The Diocese of Venice places a priority on strengthening its bond with the Jewish Community. An emphasis has been placed on deepening our shared roots and the teaching of tolerance in our schools and parishes. The Diocese is honored to host two important gatherings: 1) “Yom HaShoah – An Hour of Remembrance,” held in Sarasota County, in which the Catholic and Jewish Communities come together in remembrance of the Holocaust, and 2) “Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass,” which is held in Collier County. Although these events have been interrupted by the Pandemic in recent years, we look forward to their return.

As part of our ongoing relationship, the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue in Collier County will be hosting Rabbi Abraham Skorka for a return visit to the Diocese of Venice. Rabbi Skorka will speak at St. John the Evangelist in Naples on April 3. He has worked together with Pope Francis over the last 25 years to create many initiatives aimed at inspiring human beings to seek interreligious friendship. We strive to do the same in the Diocese of Venice.

Anti-Semitism is neither human nor Christian. It is unacceptable. Let us join together to condemn and work to prevent such acts.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida

 

 

News Briefs for the Week of Feb. 5, 2022

Sebring robotics team demonstrate skills

The St. Catherine Catholic School Robotics Team demonstrated their skills on Feb. 15, 2022, in Sebring during a visit from Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education Father John Belmonte, SJ, and Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist. The team has made remarkable progress in their skill level and has participated in a few competitions to hone their skills in preparation for a Diocesan Robotics Competition in May.

40 Days for Life in Sarasota and Fort Myers

Join other Christians during Lent (through April 10), for the Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign in Fort Myers and Sarasota. This year’s Campaign is the biggest Lenten effort yet, with prayer vigils planned in 588 cities. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. The Fort Myers prayer vigil is 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. The Sarasota prayer vigil is daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 736 Central Ave. Check with your local Parish to learn the days they are committed to standing up for life. Most participants are encouraged to spend at least one hour in silent prayer in front of a local abortion facility seeking an end to legalized abortion in the U.S. With a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court now there has never been more reason for hope and prayer. For 40 Days for Life information on the two Diocesan locations, please go to www.40daysforlife.com/sarasota or www.40daysforlife.com/fortmyers.

National Merit Finalists named

Congratulations to the seven Diocese of Venice Catholic high school seniors for advancing as Finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program! The finalists are: Alexis Camina of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; Catherine Graham and Winston Fairchild of Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish; Hallie Monserez, Peter Etz and Sofia Cava of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota; and Sophia Miller of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Finalists have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million. The process to become a Finalist includes submitting a detailed application with information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, as well as honors and awards received.

“Pope’s Rabbi” speaking in Naples

The Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County presents Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a longtime friend of Pope Francis, for a presentation at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 3, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples. With his return visit to the Diocese of Venice, Rabbi Skorka will describe his ongoing Catholic-Jewish dialogue with Pope Francis beginning while the Pontiff was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and which continues to this day. The program is presented by the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County, the Diocese of Venice and the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples. Tickets are $18 per person in advance ($25 at the door if space is available). To purchase tickets, please visit www.jewishnaples.org.

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