Rabbi who co-founded Saint Leo Interfaith Center receives top Catholic honor

Rabbi A. James Rudin, co-founder of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University, has spent much of his life helping to develop respect and understanding between different faiths.

Amid a rise in anti-Semitism around the world, his work has not gone unnoticed. He will soon receive one of the highest honors conferred by the Catholic Church.

Rudin, will be the third American rabbi to be honored with the papal knighthood of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and the first person of the Jewish faith to be granted this honor by Pope Francis.

Rabbi A. James Rudin is co-founder of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University.

The investiture ceremony will be conducted on behalf of the Pope by Auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Boston. It begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Saint Leo Wellness Center, 33701 State Road 52 (Priory Circle).

“For more than 50 years, Rabbi A. James Rudin has worked to advance Catholic-Jewish relations and interreligious relations on a larger scale, with extraordinary skill, dedication and success,” Cardinal Sean Patrick said. O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston. .

The papal knighthood was established by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 and is named after Saint Gregory, whose sixth-century writings greatly influenced the Catholic Church. It is the highest honor the pope bestows in recognition of significant contributions to society.

“It really is a highlight of my professional and personal life,” Rudin said. “And that really crowns almost 50 years of work in the field of Jewish-Christian relations. And it is a great, great honor… to be nominated by Pope Francis for this award… an honorary knight.”

“It’s something that surprised me, and I’m really honored to receive it.”

Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, director of United Nations relations and strategic partnerships for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, has worked with Rudin in the area of ​​interfaith relations for more than 25 years. He noted that the papal honor “comes at a crucial time when Jews are under attack worldwide, and this knighthood clearly demonstrates the evolution of positive Catholic-Jewish relations.”

Rudin said growing incidents of religious bigotry are part and parcel of the social pathology of anti-Semitism, which he called the world’s oldest social pathology.

“It’s a social cancer. And like cancer, it can be deadly,” Rudin said. “People have, millions have died because of anti-Semitism, and the goal is to eradicate it, stem it, put it into remission to use my cancer analogy.”

Rudin said thoughts about these feelings diminishing after World War II, that anti-Semitism was under control and no longer a threat to human society, were misguided.

“We have discovered in recent years that unfortunately, here in the United States, in Europe and in other parts of the world, it has reappeared again,” he said, adding that this is why Jewish relations and interreligious relations are so important.

“Because a lot of the source … of anti-Semitism comes from religious sources and that needs to be eradicated just like you’re trying to eradicate cancerous cells in a human being,” he said. .

Rudin, a Fort Myers resident, is the American Jewish Committee’s senior interfaith adviser, having previously served as director of interfaith affairs. He is also a prominent professor of religion and Judaica at Saint Leo, in addition to having established the university’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies.

“The Catholic Church has been especially blessed by Rabbi Rudin’s many years of close working relationship with Cardinal John O’Connor in New York and Pope St. John Paul II,” Cardinal O’Malley of Boston noted. . “We are all blessed by Rabbi Rudin’s accomplishments in promoting dialogue and collaboration among communities of different faiths. The impact of this work continues to grow as successive generations build on the foundations Rabbi Rudin laid.

Saint Leo is one of the largest Catholic universities in the country with over 15,800 students. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks and nuns, Pasco County School is a private, nonprofit university.

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