William Henry Cardinal Keeler † William Henry Cardinal Keeler †
Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Cardinal Priest of S Maria degli Angeli
Mar 04, 1931
Nov 26, 1994
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English Cardinal asks Jews to forgive church's past anti-Semitism
Nov 18, 2005
Though progress has been made in the last 40 years, a continued effort to improve communication between Jews and Christians is needed, Cardinal William Keeler told congregants at Temple Oheb Shalom's Nov. 4 Sabbath service.

(Owings Mills Times, 11/10/05) In helping to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the "Nostra Aetate," the Oct. 28, 1965 proclamation by the Catholic Church condemning anti-Semitism, Keeler said, "The church has caused great suffering through the ages in the name of Jesus, and for that we asked for forgiveness."

In the Nostra Aetate - Latin for "In our time" - Pope Paul VI said that the Catholic Church "deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source."

Rabbi Steven Fink told the congregation of the Pikesville temple that the proclamation reaffirmed that the roots of Christianity were in Judaism.

"It is incumbent upon us to mark the 40th anniversary of this statement by offering our thanks to its framers and paying tribute to those, like Cardinal Keeler, who have devoted their lives to bringing God's people ever closer," Fink said.

The Nostra Aetate repudiated that all Jews killed Jesus, and it called anti-Semitism a sin against God, Fink added.

Keeler, who celebrated his 50th year as a cleric in July, is known for his work in bringing interfaith unity.

He has been a member of the International Catholic Orthodox Commission for Theological Dialogue since 1986 and serves as moderator for Catholic-Jewish dialogue for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He was chairman of the Bishop's Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1984 through 1987.

Fink introduced Keeler as a man who has "throughout 50 years fought for human dignity and humanity."

In a voice so soft he could barely be heard even with a microphone pinned to his lapel, the 74-year-old cardinal spoke of the impact of the Nostra Aetate on Catholics.

"Nostra Aetate pointed out for Catholics that we hold in common with the Jewish people the Torah and the prophets," Keeler said.

This, he said, enabled Catholics and Jews to share the same "traditions of the faith."

He spoke of Pope John Paul II's tour of Israel and prayer at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem as signs of the progress that has been made in relations.

The Wailing, or Western, Wall, is the remaining wall of the temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. It is one of the most sacred Jewish sites in Jerusalem.

But, Keeler warned, even today the words of Jesus are wrongly manipulated to justify anti- Semitism, as they were by the Nazis.

"Christ's scriptures should never again be twisted" to justify hate, he said.

Beyond Nostra Aetate, Keeler also spoke of current Pope Benedict XVI, a man he has known for 22 years.

He reassured the Oheb Shalom congregation that the new pope will continue the outreach to other faiths that Pope John Paul II began.

Keeler said he had a brief conversation with the new pope, whom he called "a gentle person" who "reminds me of my mother" after he ascended to the papacy. "I walked up to him, and he said to me, 'We must continue praying for each other.'"

Congregation President Mark Levin said that Maryland Catholics are uniquely qualified to understand the plight of Jews.

He compared the suffering of the early Catholic immigrants with that of early Jews. In the 17th century, Catholics and Jews were not allowed to vote, hold office or worship publicly.

"We are bound together on so many levels," Levin said.

After the service, Keeler shook hands and spoke with a long line of congregants for a half-hour.
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