Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (March 24, 2005)

Published March 24, 2005

Jewish leaders in greater Atlanta hosted a luncheon last Friday, March 18, to welcome me as the new Roman Catholic Archbishop in North Georgia. It was a splendid event and one that helped me to understand even better the vitally important work of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

This gathering was actually the second such event organized by religious leaders in our community. Several weeks ago, the Cathedral of St. Philip of the Episcopal Diocese also held a prayer service and luncheon to welcome me to Atlanta. Ecumenism is alive and well in our community, thanks be to God. Both events brought me into acquaintance with some wonderfully generous and kind people.

As we begin Holy Week, it is an important moment for all of us to pause and to remember the great events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, which we celebrate in sacred signs and through sacramental rites. It is also an occasion for us to realize how much we share with men and women of other faiths and religious traditions.

The season of Passover provides the sequential context for much of our own religious calendar. Jesus Christ used his own Jewish heritage to provide the environment for his perfect fulfillment of the Covenant between God and humanity.

As we Catholics celebrate the wonder of God’s abiding love during this week, we ought to remember with deep gratitude our cherished religious bond with those whom God first chose as his own. That is, in fact, the solemn prayer that we offer on Good Friday for our sisters and brothers in the Jewish faith. “Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption.” This Good Friday I will be praying in a special way for all of our Jewish neighbors and friends.

The Jewish community here in Atlanta has grown rapidly, as has the Catholic community, bringing many young Jewish professionals and retirement-age people to the vibrant economy and mild climate of this community that we all call home. Let us this week recommit ourselves to a spirit of unity and friendship with all of our Jewish neighbors and friends.

On Holy Saturday, many Christians from other denominations will become Catholics. They will profess their faith in the Church, and we, in turn, will welcome them with open hearts. Their Baptism within other Christian denominations already binds them to us as brothers and sisters in Christ. They will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist, thus bringing them into full union with Catholics throughout the world.

The work of ecumenism includes the mutual recognition of baptism that follows the Trinitarian formula found in the Gospels. We share so much with our fellow Christians, and this week we should all give special recognition to those sacred bonds. Much remains to be accomplished in ecumenical dialogue; the differences that still separate the churches are serious, real, and matters that continue to need prayer, scholarship, humility, and mutual respect.

This week, the news media will be filled with images of religious traditions and rituals that belong to this time of year. As Catholics, we proudly give thanks for the gift of our Faith. We rejoice that we have the fullness of Faith. Yet we also recommit ourselves to working with other religious denominations so that the prayer that Jesus offered on the night before he laid down his life might one day be fulfilled. “May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me!”

May each home and heart within the Archdiocese of Atlanta be blessed with a grace-filled Easter. Gratefully before God do I welcome our newest members in the Church who will join us around the table of the Lord this Easter. You enrich us with your Faith, and you help us to become all that Christ would have us be in him. Happy Easter to all!