Rabbi gets Papal Knighthood

Papal knighthood

A papal knighthood is a rare honour. Even more so is being honoured as a Papal Knight of St Gregory. Jewish Papal Knights of St Gregory are even rarer.

The order, established in 1831, recognises personal service or unusual labour in support of the Catholic Church.

Rabbi A. James Rudin, the longtime interreligious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee, is about to join the few to be honoured in this way. The reason – his decades of work on Jewish-Catholic relations.

A Reform rabbi and also a writer, Rudin has contributed hundreds of columns over the years to the Religion News Service publication.

He has travelled widely, meeting with popes, presidents, Protestant denominational leaders and world-famous evangelists. His aim every time: to improve Jewish-Christian relations in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.

“For more than 50 years, Rabbi James Rudin has worked to advance Catholic-Jewish relations and interfaith relations on a wider scale, with extraordinary skill, dedication, and success,” says Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston.

“The impact of this work continues to grow as successive generations build on the foundation Rabbi Rudin has established.”

Rudin, 88, says his relations with Catholics go back to his youth in Virginia, when Jews and Catholics were vastly outnumbered by white evangelicals who viewed them with a certain disdain.

Rudin, the only Jew in his grade school class, had to leave the room during a reading of the New Testament. So did his two Catholic classmates.

“That was my first introduction to Catholic-Jewish relations: little kids singled out and humiliated standing outside the classroom,” Rudin says.

Later, as an Air Force chaplain in Japan and Korea, his closest colleague was a Catholic priest. They cooperated on Catholic-Jewish programming together.

He joined the American Jewish Committee in 1968. There he developed a close working relationship with another priest, John O’Connor, who went on to become archbishop of New York and ultimately a cardinal.

Rudin also co-founded the St Leo University’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, where he has taught Judaism for several years.
His papal knighthood investiture will take place at the Center on 20 November.

O’Malley will represent Pope Francis at the ceremony.

Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, who helped nominate Rudin for the knighthood, says the honour comes at a critical time of growing antisemitism.

“This knighthood clearly demonstrates the evolving positive relations between Catholics and Jews,” says Greenberg. He is the director of United Nations relations and strategic partnerships for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Rabbi Rudin well deserves this historic, international honour.”


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