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Conference In Memory Of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

23 June, 201323 June, 2013 0 comments Holy Land Pilgrimage Holy Land Pilgrimage

On 16th of June 2013, in the bucolic setting of the Yezreel Valley College in northern Israel, the Galilee Center for Jewish-Christian Relations held a conference  to mark the first year of the passing of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. Cardinal Martini was well known for his enormous learning (he had two Ph.ds), his best selling books, and his liberal opinions within the church. He was for the ordination of women as deacons (just under priests), the use of contraception under certain circumstances, and homosexual marriages. He was the 'liberal' candidate for Pope, indeed he received a higher count than Cardinal Retzinger in the first round of voting, but had to withdraw on account of his physical condition - a rare form of Parkinson's which was to be with him till the end.


Bishop Marcuzzo
His Excellency Bishop Giacinto Boulos-Marcuzzo speaking at the conference


The reason for the conference in his memory being held in Israel was what made him even more unusual among his peers in the Catholic Church. This was his love of Israel and his insistence that Christians could not understand their own religion without a profound understanding of the Judaism from which it sprang.


Martini wrote that, "Christians who visit Jerusalem should suspend judgment on the political situation there and simply pray for both sides. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had become so complicated and painful that even an expert would have trouble sorting it out."

In a November 2004 speech at Rome's Gregorian University,(where he had been rector between 1969 and1978), he told Catholics they could not understand their faith unless they understood the Jewish faith practiced by Jesus and his disciples: "It is vital for the church not only to understand the ancient covenant (between God and the Jewish people) which has endured for centuries, in order to launch a fruitful dialogue, but also to deepen our own understanding of who we are as the church."

Cardinal Martini's view was rooted in the texts of the Old and New testaments. He comprehended the resurrection of Israel in our own era as a God-given revelation of the highest order. Israel - as a physical and existential fact - meant that he, and the church he represented, had to change their ways of thinking about Jews and Judaism. He made this 'discovery' early on in his career. Rabbi Anshel Kreiman, formerly Chief Rabbi of Chile, recalled at the Conference, meeting the Cardinal in the house of Martin Buber in Germany some 50 years ago, and his saying how he wished to live his last days in Israel and to be buried in the sacred soil of the Holy Land.

He furthered his belief by publishing a history of the Jews for Christians. This was consistent with another of his abiding beliefs. As Professor Ariela Lowenstein observed: "Martini could speak a number of languages - ancient and modern - and work in multiple worlds, all of which led him to believe in the necessity of hearing the other."

Father David Neuhaus spoke at the Conference, in his characteristic perfect hebrew, of the privilege of being with Martini in Israel during six years when he was resident at the Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem (2002-2008). He recognized that in Israel Christians were in a minority and that the dialogue for Christians and Jews took on a different complexion. There was much, he felt, that had to be done to overcome prejudice and ancient biases.


Maris and Giovanni Martini

Maris and Giovanni Martini (the late Cardinal's sister) along with Father Joseph and Father Neuhaus

Two lectures that were in the spirit of Cardinal Martini were given. Professor David Meghnagi of the University of Roma Tre, spoke about the impossibility of healing the wounds of the Sho'ah, and yet the existence of Israel at least gave hope. He saw this in real, visceral, terms in that Israel was a place to bring together encounters between Europe and the Middle East, the East and the West. Dr Ya'acov Azuelos of the Yezreel Valley College spoke of the various attempts to translate the Hebrew Bible into other languages with all the ideological baggage that this implied, and how Christians and Jews tried to possess the narrative for their own tradition. This had dire consequences in that the two communities remained far apart. He quoted Martini in this regard that "if only we had loved each other more, then the terrible things that happened might have been prevented."          

This sentiment was echoed in the closing remarks of Dr. Faydra Shapiro, Director of the Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations at Yezreel Valley  College. She expressed the hope that this commemoration would lead to a greater understanding of how the different religions and traditions could learn to live together in an authentic way.

Bishop Marcuzzo

Bishop Marcuzzo, Father David Neuhaus, Ophir Yarden speaking with Dr. Faydra Shapiro


Among those attending the conference were people who had come from Italy especially for this event. They were no doubt part of the 150,000 people who attended the Cardinal's funeral a year ago in Milan, where he had served as Archbishop for more than 20 years.


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Mordechai Beck is a Jerusalem based journalist and contributor to Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


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