THE Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) held their 22nd annual Conversation last week, bringing together participants from around Australia to share their wisdom and reflections.
The Catholic delegation was led by Bishop Michael McKenna, the chair of the Bishops Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, while the Jewish delegation was chaired by Jeremy Jones, former president of the ECAJ who is the director of international and community affairs at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
“This Conversation marks the 55th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican document which heralded a dramatically different relationship between Catholics and Jews, which has led to the flourishing of dialogue and cooperation,” Jones told the meeting.
“The way in which Catholics and Jews in Australia conduct informative, respectful and inspiring Conversations most likely exceeds anything that would have been imagined back in 1965.”
Rabbi Alon Meltzer from Shalom, Melinda Jones, president of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, and Rabbi Ralph Genende, senior rabbi of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, presented a range of Jewish thoughts on the issues of plague, community, hope, isolation and dealing with diversity.
They covered issues including the transmission of faith, timeless messages which transcend temporal circumstances, what it means to choose life, challenges which are specific to women and men respectively and universal messages from specific teachings.
Following the formal presentations, other Jewish and Catholic delegates contributed to a lively and informative discussion.
“For two Archbishops, three Bishops and other Catholic clerical and academic figures to come together with four Rabbis and a diverse group of lay Jewish leaders, in a spirit of goodwill and genuine desire to learn from each other, is something of great value,” Jones said.
“Much as we are looking forward to resuming our in-person meetings, the online meeting furthered and strengthened not just the relationship between our communities but the genuine friendships which have developed.”