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Our Journey Together

The acknowledgement of unity within diversity is a necessary component of interfaith dialogue.

by Brother Austin David Carroll, F.S.C.

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The Catholic Near East Welfare Association finds that in its work in the Near East, the Catholic community is invariably a small minority. For this reason, we are ever sensitive to the important role that interfaith dialogue plays in maintaining workable relationships with various groups. Catholic Near East has been and continues to be involved with Catholic Jewish interfaith dialogue in the United States as well as overseas. Other interfaith dialogues are on the agenda of Catholic Near East, such as dialogue with Islam and with the Orthodox Christians. The fabric of religion in the Near East is a highly varied pattern made up of many faith communities.

At the invitation of Catholic Near East, Rabbi Leon Klenicki recently visited with Brother David and Mr. Joseph Donnelly at our New York headquarters to share some reflections on the state of interfaith dialogue. Recently, Rabbi Klenicki had been appointed as the B’nai B’rith liaison to the Vatican in April 1989 together with Rabbi David Rosen who is the director of the Jerusalem office of Interfaith Affairs for B’nai B’rith.

Rabbi Klenicki is the director of the Interfaith Affairs Department of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. In this post he will continue the Anti-Defamation League’s efforts to further Catholic-Jewish understanding through the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and other offices of the Holy See. The ADL, as it is commonly known, was founded some 75 years ago to protect Jewish immigrants and their human rights from the prejudice to which minority groups can be subjected. As an outgrowth of this activity, the ADL became a leader in the struggle against racism and has assisted other minority communities in their struggle for their human and civil rights, eg., blacks and hispanics.

Our reflections focused on the issue of interfaith dialogue. People of good will recognize that each party enters such a dialogue with a sense of real pain, for in today’s world, as in the, world of history, the reality of human prejudice leads and has led to many pain filled experiences for both Jew and Christian. For 75 years the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has attempted through educational programs to enlighten people to the dangers of prejudice, and the effects it has upon the oppressed and upon minorities.

To this task, Rabbi Klenicki brings a most unusual background. He was born in Argentina and there in his study of Spanish literature became acquainted with the works of Sts. Augustine, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. Written in 1964 for his degree in Philosophy at Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati, Ohio), his thesis was entitled, “The Mystical Language of St. John of the Cross.” He now serves on the faculty of Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall, N.J., where he teaches a course on the “Rabbinic Theology and Religious Vocation of Jesus” as well as “Jewish Spirituality.” Having worked with the Anti-Defamation League since 1973, Rabbi Klenicki sees this current time of interfaith dialogue as “…being at a moment of crisis … a time between times … an opportunity for mutual inner growth. The stage of tea and sympathy is passed and the second stage is evolving.” This second stage is one of outreach to the larger human community to develop a respect for one another’s religious traditions.

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Tags: CNEWA Unity Interreligious Catholic-Jewish Dialogue