Ukrainian Greek Catholics celebrate Easter in New York Ukrainian Greek Catholics celebrate Easter in New York  (2022 Getty Images)

Easter and Passover: a time to renew our concern for the freedom of every person

Marking the annual celebrations of Easter and Passover - which coincide this year - Cardinal Wilton Gregory and Pope Francis’ long-time friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, remind all believers that Jews and Christians celebrate the true freedom of this holy season together.

By Linda Bordoni

Introducing a joint message of hope and fraternity for the seasons of Easter and Passover, Cardinal Wilton Gregory and Rabbi Abraham Skorka note that “Spring 2023 brings us the annual celebrations of Passover and Easter, coinciding this year on the second weekend of April.”

It’s what happened, they recall, over two thousand years ago when Jesus’ Last Supper and the Jewish Passover occurred together in Israel.

For believers, the religious leaders write in their message entitled When Passover and Easter Coincide: A Shared Message of Hope, this is a season for all people to renew their lives as children of God.

For Jews, the heart of Passover (Pesach) is the experience of geulah - redemption or deliverance – as found in the biblical story of Exodus. It’s a story that tells of how ancient Hebrews were freed from the Pharoah’s cruelty and “become a free people, growing into all that they could be.”

For Christians, “Jesus’ death and resurrection brings its own freedom from sin and slavery.”

“Easter is the Christian feast of deliverance from death to eternal life.”

Cardinal Gregory of Washington (D.C.) and Catholic Co-Chair of the National Council of Synagogues consultation for the USCCB, and Rabbi Skorka, Senior Research Fellow for Jewish Studies and Jewish-Catholic Relations at Georgetown University, Washington (D.C.), note that “as a Jew, Jesus would have celebrated Passover yearly with his family and friends.”

Consequently, Pope St. John Paul II wrote that Jesus learned from stories like the Exodus: ‘He nourished his mind and heart with them. … Thus he became an authentic son of Israel, deeply rooted in his own people's long history’.

An opportunity to renew our concern for freedom

Thus, they highlight, “the seasons of Passover and Easter are an opportunity for all people, not just Christians and Jews, to renew their concern for the freedom of every person.”

As they write this, the Cardinal and the Rabbi say, “human dignity is being violated in wars, poverty, enslavement, and apathy around the world.”

“And it is still racism - perhaps America’s “original sin” - that fuels antisemitism, Islamophobia, and discrimination of all kinds.”

Today, they continue: “Let Judaism and Christianity call on every conscience to help free our nations from whatever bigotry holds us captive. Freedom belongs to all people.”

The two signatories of the message urge Americans of “every race and class” to heed the words of the book of Leviticus 25:10, as inscribed on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.”

And recalling Pope Francis’ reiterated appeal, they too cry out: “We cannot be complacent with the notion of ‘throwaway’ people anywhere.”

No one is disposable

"Everyone has God-given dignity; no one is disposable. This is the message of Pesach (Passover) and Pascha (Easter) that we, as a Jew and a Christian, would like to share with everyone today."

“In the true freedom of this holy season, then, may God renew our lives as his children, brothers and sisters to one another!”

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05 April 2023, 17:25