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I am honored to announce that His Eminence, William Henry Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop-Emeritus of the Baltimore, Md., along with Rabbi Eugene Korn, the North American Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation, will receive the Catholic-Jewish Commission of Southern New Jersey’s, Nostra Aetate Award. The Symposium and Award Ceremony that will take place Thursday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the brand new synagogue, Congregation Beth El, 8000 Main Street, Voorhees, is free and open to the public and will be followed by refreshments.

Cardinal Keeler is no stranger to our parts as his cousin Dr. Louis Keeler lives in Cherry Hill. Cardinal Keeler grew up in Lebanon, Pa., and received his early seminary training at St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Pa.. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa. He received a licentiate in sacred theology and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. As secretary to Bishop Leech, Bishop of Harrisburg, during the Second Vatican Council meetings in Rome, he was appointed peritus or “special advisor” to the Council by Pope John XXIII. Eventually, he was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop and Ordinary of the Harrisburg Diocese. Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Baltimore and elevated him to the College of Cardinals.

As an influential participant in a wide range of national and international issues, Cardinal Keeler was elected president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). As part of his work with the NCCB, Cardinal Keeler developed a reputation for effectively building interfaith bridges. He is particularly noted for his work in furthering Catholic-Jewish dialogue and serves as moderator of Catholic-Jewish relations for the USCCB.

Rabbi Korn was an adjunct professor of jewish thought at Seton Hall, University in N.J. He earned a doctorate in moral philosophy from Columbia University and was ordained by the Israeli Rabbinate. He was previously the national director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League and a Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Dr. Korn is a scholar in the areas of Jewish life and values, Israel and Jewish-Christian relations. He has published numerous scholarly essays on Jewish ethics, Israel and religious pluralism, tradition, extremism and Jewish values, as well as Jewish-Christian relations.

This will be the second granting of the Nostra Aetate Award, given by our Catholic-Jewish Commission. “Nostra Aetate,” Latin for “In our time” was promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council Fathers. It said that the Catholic Church “deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and from any source.” Cardinal Keeler recently said, “Nostra Aetate pointed out for Catholics that we hold in common with the Jewish people the Torah and the Prophets.”

“This” he said “enabled Catholics and Jews to share the same traditions of faith.”

At a similar recognition ceremony four years ago, Cardinal Keeler warned against those who deny the Holocaust or minimize the ingredients of prejudice. He warned that “even today the words of Jesus are wrongly manipulated to justify anti-Semitism, as they were by the Nazis.”

“Christ’s Scriptures should never again be twisted to justify hate,” he added. When speaking of our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, he mentioned that they have known one another and been friends for over 22 years. He assured the audience that Pope Benedict will continue the work of Pope John Paul II in interfaith outreach. He shared some of the brief conversation he had with the pope, whom he called “a gentle person” who “reminds me of my mother.”

It will truly be a historic gathering on May 14 at Congregation Beth El when these two lions of interfaith dialogue receive their awards and address the progress made over the past 50 years. Years made historically relevant in interfaith progress because of their good work!

I hope you will be able to join us as we honor and thank these two interfaith heroes. It will also be the first public affair at the newly constructed synagogue Congregation Beth El at the Main Street complex in Voorhees. 

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