Last week I was in Madrid for three days to participate in one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. The International Liaison Committee (ILC) between the Vatican and the Council of International Jewish Committees (ICJIC) first met in 1971 as a result of the Vatican Council Declaration Nostra Aetate in which the Catholic Church condemned anti-Semitism and set the stage for a whole new rapprochement between Catholics and Jews. Every other year the group meets in a different city for three days of conferences and workshops to explore issues of common interest. There are times when there are some delicate problems and the dialogue can become charged. My first time participating in this meeting was 1982 in Milan during the Lebanese War which threatened the stability of the Middle East.
This year the official delegates were joined in Madrid by about thirty local persons from each faith tradition. I am happy to report that it was, in my view, the most positive and productive of the meetings I have attended through the years as an official delegate of the Holy See. (You can find the statement at the conclusion of the meeting on our diocesan website, www.drvc.org.) The Jewish community in Spain is very small due of course to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. However, a visit to the ancient capital of Toledo with its great Cathedral and restored Jewish Quarter gave us a first-hand chance to experience the historical difficulties and the restored hopes for the future. The speakers were among the most interesting we have had including my counterpart in the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue in this country, Dr. David Berger of Yeshiva University.
While the final communiqué gives the details and the contents of our discussions, including workshops on anti-Semitism, Persecution of Christians and Religious Freedom, I am convinced that we advanced even more in the deepening of the bonds of mutual respect, friendship and commitment to collaborate together for the good of society, for peace, freedom and human dignity, guided by a vision inspired by our two faiths.