1992: A Year of T'shuvah

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Ramon Torrella Cascante, Archbishop of Tarragona

Spagna       26/03/1992

On 26 March 1992 A delegation of Catholic Bishops of Spain met the Central Conference of American Rabbis at Toledo. They were welcomed by Cardinal Don Marcella Gonzales Martin, Archbishop of Toledo, the Cardinal Primate of Spain. The following statement was made by Archbishop Ramon Torrella Cascante, Archbishop of Tarragona, at the Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue

Dear Friends,
That the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo and myself, the President of the Episcopal Commission for Interreligious Relations, are presently playing the host to a representation of Rabbis, here, in Toledo, in the year 1992, is a sign of the times.

To assess the utmost significance of this fact, it is enough to change the second figure of this year's numeral and instead of 1992 read 1492.

I don't think we should dwell at length in recalling to our minds and hearts the sad happenings of that fateful date. We are meeting here for that reason.

The very fact that this meeting is now taking place may provide a measure not only nor even primarily of the time elapsed, but of the changes we are witness to, in Jewish-Christian relations.

1492 was a time for persecutions, rejection, eviction, dispossession, forced conversion, exile and even death. That the same year marks the beginning of the great adventure of modern times, the opening up for Europe of the American continent, and its consequent evangelization, doesn't change the picture much. Rather, it makes it more painful. The same men and women were at least partly responsible for both. Shall we see in this a symbol of the penchant to evil which exists in the human heart, as taught by the Torah (Gn. 8,5) and repeated by Jewish tradition?

However that may be, there is no doubt that what was done then by Christians to Jews, and also to Muslims, is exactly the contrary of what should have been done, according to the tenets of our Christian faith. People were then convinced of the opposite. We do not judge them, but we can and should deplore what was done.

In the same breath, we thank the Lord together that five hundred years after, we are able to see and act in a completely different way. Does not this mean that we have learned a lesson, on both sides?

1492, and many other dates, before and after, introduced a wedge between our two peoples. A wall was built, in a sense, more strong and impervious than "the iron one", fallen to pieces not long ago.

Wedges and walls between peoples are always unnatural, because peoples have a common origin and a common destiny, coming as we are from God, and moving towards God; brothers and sisters who carry in themselves God's image (cf. Gn. 1,25).

But wedges and walls between Christian and Jews are even more unnatural; no, they are absurd. Universal human brotherhood becomes in us, Christians and Jews, the common lineage from Abraham, the same inheritance of the revealed Word of God, and — last but not least — Jesus himself, born and raised in the Jewish people, a member of that people since his conception up to his resurrection from the dead and beyond. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, as we Christians believe, he always keeps his Jewish identity, never denied, never lost. A son of the people of Israel, as Paul the Apostle affirms (Rm 9.3).

True, Jesus unites us and divides us. You are Jews, we are Christians. But ought this to mean that we are to be enemies?

Let me answer clearly by the negative, in this place and in this particular occasion. In doing so, 1 am only being faithful to the Church's teaching in the Vatican Council II and in the statements of many Popes. Did not Pius XI proclaim already in 1936 that we, Christians, are "spiritually Semites"?

And this city where we meet today, does it not give witness, from remote times, that we are called to be together, to work together, while respecting each other's identity?

Unfortunately, the 11th century in Toledo is less remembered than the closing years of the 15th. Unfortunately but understandably enough. Cruelty and arbitrariness delve more deeply into our souls than concord or mutual acceptance.

It should not, but it does, precisely because these unhuman attitudes break the bonds which should weld us together. Yes, we are made to be together and to collaborate for the welfare of the world.

History and its tenacious memory, misdeeds of all kinds, and even the consciousness of our own religious identity, make for our mutual mistrust and separateness.

On the other hand, t he same religious identity calls us to a more intimate brotherhood, and the voices we hear in this sense are the voices of Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus and God himself.

Could not such voices from our Creator and his witnesses in history overcome the tragedies of that same history, and even more, the tensions which may exist among us presently?

I add that such voices, and in the first place, the voice of our common Lord, call for repentance, teshuva and for reconciliation.

1992 should be a year of teshuva, for Christians, and particularly for Christians in Spain. But also, at the same time, a year for joy. Teshuva in fact does not destroy but liberates, thanks to the Lord's mercy and our brothers' disposition for reconciliation.

In this light I see your presence here and in this spirit 1 am happy to welcome you.

You bring us what we need, as Spanish Christians, a message of reconciliation and hope, and we thank you for that, before God.

A href=docOnLineView.asp?class=Doc00509>Response by Rabbi Joshu O. Haberman

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