“No diplomatic relations have had the same significance as the diplomatic relationship with the Holy See,” Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, stated in his remarks during a panel discussion held on Wednesday, June 19 at Fordham University, New York.
“The Vatican Israel Accords: 25 Years of Progress and Challenge” was organized to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel. The event was co-sponsored by The Consulate General of Israel in New York and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ambassador Dayan, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and Professor Adam Gregerman, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and Co-director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, delivered remarks.
All members of the panel described the journey that the Holy See and Israel have taken, overcoming tensions to establish a true friendship. Each speaker acknowledged the particular importance of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the two States in cementing this progress, an agreement that is “more than a diplomatic accord, as it had great spiritual, theological, and historical significance.”
Ambassador Dayan called the progress “an incredible journey spiritually and politically we have done in nearly 100 years.” The Fundamental Agreement, he said, is “not merely an agreement between two states, but a rapprochement between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.”
He mentioned the significance of Pope Francis’ visit to the grave of Theodore Herzl, a moment he said, that helped “to build a wall of friendship between Israel and the Holy See.”
Archbishop Auza described diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel as having “a truly special character.”
The relationship between the two nations is unique, he said, as it is based upon a shared understanding that flows from the “inextricable bonds between Jewish and Christians faiths, between Jews and Christians” and from the “unique character of the Holy Land.”
The past 25 years have been “a time of deepening mutual understanding, trust, friendship, and cooperation,” he said.
He expressed gratitude for Israel’s legal recognition of the Catholic Church in Israel and its commitment to retaining the status quo regarding Christian holy sites, thanking the State of Israel for the “respect and protection it gives for Catholic churches, convents, monasteries, and cemeteries, for its support and encouragement of pilgrimages, and for so many other elements in the Fundamental Agreement.”
He emphasized that one of the underlying commitments of the Fundamental Agreement is the determination of both States to combat all forms of “anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism and religious intolerance,” noting the condemnation of anti-Semitism by Vatican II and recent Popes. He also thanked the Jewish people for courageously opposing “growing anti-Christian violence and what we call Christianophobia.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan described the establishment of diplomatic relations with the State of Israel as a “masterstroke” of Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate, calling the accord “a historic highlight of vibrant Jewish-Catholic relations.”
Dolan discussed the importance for Catholic Jewish relations of the diplomatic relations based on the Fundamental Agreement. He said it is “proof of the Holy See’s constant refrain, that dialogue and diplomacy were the most effective tools for the achievement of justice and peace.”
The cardinal noted that Pope John Paul II had been committed to the idea of strengthening Jewish Catholic relations from the first days of his pontificate, seeing it as a theologically-driven key step in combating anti-Semitism.
The establishment of diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Vatican “inspires us to continue to dare never to be straight-jacketed by apprehensions or hesitancies of the past,” the cardinal said. It is a “mandate to action” that has “quite literally made the world a better place.”
Professor Gregerman praised the fact of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, declaring that there exists “no parallel in history for any two other religious traditions to have made such a dramatic break with the past.” Calling it an example of the “genuine friendship” that exists between Israel and the Holy See who are both “committing to work together as allies for a common cause,”
Professor Gregerman referenced the document Rostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council document on the relationship of the Church with other religions, as a turning point in Holy See-Israeli relations.
While all acknowledged that challenges in the Holy See-Israel relationship remain, the speakers expressed confidence that the relationship will continue to flourish.
“Ad multos gloriososque annos—to many and glorious years!,” Archbishop Auza concluded his remarks.
Archbishop Auza’s Full Statement
Ambassador Dayan, Cardinal Dolan,
Distinguished Speakers and Esteemed Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
Twenty-five years have elapsed since the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See. On January 19, 1994, the Apostolic Nunciature to Israel and Embassy of Israel to the Holy See were established and were formally opened on June 15, 1994. It has been a time of deepening mutual understanding, trust, friendship, and cooperation between the Holy See and Israel, made sweeter and more solid by the challenges that have accompanied these twenty-five years of progress in the relations between Israel and the Holy See.
We look back with gratitude to the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel, signed on December 30, 1993, and entered into force on March 10, 1994, which paved the way for the exchange of the first ambassador and nuncio.
We are grateful for the signing of the Agreement on the legal personality of the Church, on November 10, 1997, which recognized the legal status of the Catholic Church and its institutions in Israel and whose full application is about to be completed.
We are thankful for the labors of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the State of Israel and the Holy See to reach an agreement on financial matters, whose successful conclusion we hope to celebrate soon.
We are indebted to the State of Israel for its commitment to ensure that the Catholic Church have the freedom to carry out her mission and thereby make her own contribution to Israeli society, through her parishes, health care and social welfare institutions and especially through establishing, maintaining and directing schools and institutes of study at all levels, where formation in the values of dialogue, respect, peace, and justice takes place.
Similarly, we are thankful for the State of Israel’s commitment to maintaining the Status Quo in the Christian holy places, for the respect and protection it gives for Catholic churches, convents, monasteries, and cemeteries, for its support and encouragement of pilgrimages, and for so many other elements in the Fundamental Agreement.
The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 183 different countries and the State of Israel with 163, but the relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel are of a truly special character, flowing from the inextricable bonds between the Jewish and Christian faiths, between Jews and Christians, and from the unique character of the Holy Land, which is sacred to Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers.
The heart of the Holy Land is the “City of Peace,” in Hebrew, Yerushalayim, where the faithful of the three great monotheistic religions come to pray for peace. If there is any place on earth where, as the Psalm says, “love and truth … meet” and “justice and peace …kiss” (Ps 85:11), it is there. It is for peace in Jerusalem, within its ramparts, towers, and homes, that believers all over the world pray (Ps 122:6-8). It is Jerusalem’s unique status that makes it not only a place of reconciliation and encounter between religions and peoples but a symbol for reciprocal respect and peaceful and harmonious coexistence across the world.
The special character of the relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See summons both States to work together to protect the dignity and life of every human being, to promote the fundamental right to religious freedom and conscience, and to reject all forms of religious intolerance. This is a key component of the Fundamental Agreement between the State of Israel and the Holy See, where in Article 2, both States commit to “appropriate cooperation in combatting all forms of anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism and of religious intolerance, and in promoting mutual understanding among nations, tolerance among communities and respect for human life and dignity.” The Holy See has worked hard during these years, alongside the State of Israel, to fight against the abomination of anti-Semitism. It renews this vigorous and ever urgent commitment as new forms of the evil of anti-Semitism have been arising.
As Pope Francis emphasized last year during an international conference in the Vatican on the fight against anti-Semitism, the future of the State of Israel and the Holy See, and particularly between Jews and Catholics, “will either be together or will not be at all.” In particular, Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed that “for a Christian, any form of anti-Semitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.” As the Second Vatican Council teaches, “The Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone” (Nostra Aetate, 4).
The Holy See is also grateful for the friendship and leadership of so many of our Jewish elder brothers and sisters in helping Christians learn to acknowledge and courageously oppose growing anti-Christian violence and Christianophobia because attacks against Jews and Christians are increasingly coming from the same intolerant fonts.
To strengthen ourselves for the journey ahead, Pope Francis said, “we need a common memory, living and faithful, that should not remain imprisoned in resentment but, though riven by the night of pain, should open up to the hope of a new dawn.” He said that the Church “desires to extend her hand. She wishes to remember and to walk together.”
The past quarter-century of bilateral relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel are part of that living, faithful memory and of that common journey. We continue to work together to consolidate further this common journey.
In the Catholic Church, one of the most popular toasts, especially celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, is ad multos annos!, a Latin expression that means, “For many more years!” It is sometimes embellished, ad multos gloriososque annos!, which means, “For many more glorious years.” As we together celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and Holy See, I cannot think of a more fitting toast and prayer.
Ad multos gloriososque annos!
Thank you for your attention.
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