By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published November 12, 2015 | En Español
I have managed to become an Atlanta citizen in many more ways than you—or I—could have imagined 11 years ago!
I now shiver in temperatures that I once might have considered a “brisk” Chicago morning. I follow our local sports teams with as much passion as I once followed the White Sox, Notre Dame, and the Bears as a kid. I complain about our capricious traffic gridlock with the intensity—and occasionally the expressive language—of a native son.
I take great pride in the many things that we Atlanta citizens do so well.
Consequently, on Wednesday, Oct. 28, I found myself just basking in the joy of Atlanta’s Catholic community joined in a festive celebration with our Jewish brothers and sisters on the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate.” I was so proud of the legacy of affection and collaboration that exists between Jews and Catholics in this local Church. Ours is certainly not yet a perfect unity, but one that is long-standing and jointly highly valued.
The art and the photographic display that preceded the program gave clear testimony of the long-standing friendship that Catholic and Jewish Atlanta residents have shared. Each one of my predecessors in office helped to advance that dialogue with their Jewish partners and fellow clerics. The program was simply splendid, bringing music, dance and drama together to highlight and strengthen an important relationship. We need to highlight the pioneer work of our predecessors. The photographs and reproduced news articles confirm that we build upon decades of old encounters.
From my first days here as the Archbishop, I have witnessed the importance of our collaboration with our Jewish neighbors. Far longer than the 50 years of “Nostra Aetate,” we have found ourselves in close dialogue over issues that have touched both communities. In 1956 when we first became a diocese, we Catholics found many reasons to work with our Jewish friends who, like ourselves, were a small religious presence in North Georgia. That affinity was reinforced whenever there were unwelcome expressions of religious bigotry that touch either community. But more than simply banding together in moments of hostile events, we also stood together during the civil rights movement and as we witnessed the growth and expansion of Atlanta as a world-class city with increasing business, cultural and international diversity.
The observance of the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate” provided a happy moment to thank God for His goodness in all of our lives. The Catholic and Jewish youngsters who sang and danced together were a happy omen that the future of our close association is well established.
This document from the Second Vatican Council was a monumental statement from the Catholic Church regarding our appreciation and respect for those of other religious traditions—especially our Jewish friends and neighbors. I was so proud to be the Archbishop of this wondrous community of people whose legacy of ecumenical affection is such an important part of our heritage.
We should all be proud of the collaboration that produced this event. I publicly thank my colleagues here at the Chancery who have worked for more than a year and a half to make this celebration such a success. When the time for us to observe the 100th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate” comes around, I pray that the members of the Archdiocese of Atlanta at that future moment will pause to praise God for the good things that they inherited as part of the legacy that we will leave them.