Friday, March 28, 2008

Limited Opportunity for Dialogue at JPII Cultural Center "Interfaith Service" with the Pope

According to the Washington Post's PopeWatch, the interreligious meeting during Benedict's US visit will be a strictly "one way" affair:

Benedict will hold a meeting with interfaith leaders at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. on April 17. And he will hold a prayer service with 300 leaders from other Christian denominations at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, in Manhattan the next day.

But in a briefing today at the U.S. Conference of Bishops' headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Ronald Roberson, associate director of ecumenical and interrreligious affairs and the Rev. Dennis McManus, the conference's liaison to the Jewish faith, made clear that it will be Benedict who will do the talking.

According to the Washington Times, the April 17 interfaith gathering at the John Paul II Cultural Center will consist of a 20-minute papal address "on the use of religion as an instrument of peace", a brief presentation of gifts and the exchange of a few words:

Ravi Gupta, 25, a Hindu professor at Centre College in Danville, Ky., hopes to do more than present the pope with a brass incense holder in the shape of the Sanskrit word "Om."

"I'd like to encourage him to open up a full dialogue with Hinduism and bring Hindus to the table," he said. "That is important considering India's growing presence in the world. Religious issues in India are taking on a lot more significance than they used to."

As is expected, the Jewish people have some concerns to express as well: the matter of the recent revival of the Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of the Jewish people:
"We as Jews would normally be the last ones to be weigh in on our [ecumenical] partner's internal theological beliefs and liturgical practices, but we were perplexed by the pope's steps to revive the use of a prayer that recommends the conversion of Jews," [said David J. Michaels, director of intercommunal affairs at B'nai B'rith International].

"I don't know if I will have the opportunity to say anything to him about it, but if I do, I'd ask the pope in a spirit of friendship and honesty to take into account the needs and feelings of his Jewish partners."

Jewish reactions to the re-institution of the prayer are mixed. The Times interviewed Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, who begs to differ:
"My position is each religion has to respect the other religion," he said. "It is not for a Jewish person to meddle in the texts of Catholic rituals nor is it right for Christians to meddle in Jewish texts. It'd be brazen for me to criticize what this pope and any other Catholic leader would say in their liturgy."
The pope's visit will overlap with Passover this year. According to , "Benedict wanted to extend — through him and several other Jewish leaders present — Passover greetings to American Jews."