By Lisa Zengarini
The former Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commowealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks, died Saturday morning at the age of 72, after being diagnosed with cancer nearly a month earlier. Lord Sacks was born in London on 8 March 1948 and lead the British Orthodox Jewish community from 1991 to 2013. He was known as a prolific writer on key issues of our times, including secularism, individualism and religion. His fame reached well beyond the Jewish community in Britain and in 2016 Lord Sacks was awarded the “Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities”.
In a message, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW), paid tribute to a man he describes as “a friend” and “an eloquent proponent of some of the greatest truths of humanity.”
A friend, a leader, an eloquent spokesman for humanity
“I recall with clarity some of his forceful and persuasive presentations of the truths expressed in Judaism and indeed in the Christian faith, truths which help us to make sense of our lives, our communities and our destinies”, Cardinal Nichols wrote in his message. He went on to recall his meeting with Pope Benedict at St Mary’s University on 17 September 2010, in which Lord Sacks quoted St. John Henry Newman, who said: “We should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend” and gave eloquent expression to the shared Jewish and Christian beliefs with these poignant words: “In the face of a deeply individualistic culture we offer community. Against consumerism, we talk about the things that have value but not a price. Against cynicism, we dare to admire and respect. In the face of fragmenting families, we believe in consecrating relationships”.
Cardinal Nichols concluded his message, adding, “I have lost a friend; the Jewish community a great leader; humanity an eloquent spokesman”.
A deep commitment to interpersonal relationships
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, praised Lord Sacks' leadership and his "deep commitment to interpersonal relationships". "You couldn't help but be swept up in his delight at living, his sense of humour, his kindness, and his desire to know, understand and value others," he said. Other messages have been sent by a number of political and religious leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.