By Lydia O'Kane
Cardinal Augustin Bea was the first President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and worked tirelessly in the field of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Cardinal’s death, the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Center for the Study of Christianity in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have been holding a series of scholarly lectures.
Addressing participants on Thursday, Pope Francis called Cardinal Bea, “an outstanding figure”, who should not only be remembered for what he did, but also the way he did it. “He remains”, the Pope said, “a model and a source of inspiration for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and in an eminent way for the “intra-familial” dialogue with Judaism.” Pope Francis recalled that Nahum Goldmann, then President of the World Jewish Congress, used three words to describe Bea: ‘understanding, good and courageous’
Love and respect, primary principles of dialogue
The Pope said that, “Cardinal Bea was convinced that love and respect are the primary principles of dialogue.” But the Pontiff also noted that the Cardinal did not always have it easy and “faced a number of obstacles in his efforts on behalf of dialogue.”
“Although accused and maligned” commented the Pope, “he moved forward with the perseverance of one who never stops loving. When told that the times were not ripe for what the then Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity was proposing, he responded spiritedly: ‘Then we have to make them ripe’.”
Pope Francis continued, “neither an optimist nor a pessimist, he was a realist about the future of unity: on the one hand, conscious of the difficulties, on the other convinced of the need to respond to the heartfelt desire of the Lord that his disciples be ‘one’”.
“As Cardinal Bea put it”, emphasized Pope Francis, ‘the Council should not be a goal but rather a point of departure’”. The Pope underlined that, “dialogue calls for hearing two voices, and the witness of Jewish and Catholic instructors who teach together is worth more than many speeches.”
Pass beyond boundaries
“Up to now”, he pointed out, “Jewish-Christian dialogue has often taken place in settings for the most part reserved to specialists.” The Pope then added that, “friendship and dialogue between Jews and Christians need to pass beyond the boundaries of the scientific community. It would be wonderful, for example, if in the same city rabbis and parish priests could work, together with their respective communities, in service to those in need and by promoting paths of peace and dialogue with all.”
Pope Francis concluded by expressing the hope that this commemoration of the person and work of Cardinal Bea would be a stimulus to strengthening the irreversible commitment to the quest for unity between Christians, and to promoting in concrete ways renewed Jewish, Christian friendship.