Cardinal O'Connor's Efforts to Promote Ties with Jews

May 5, 2000

Source: The Boston Globe

On May 5, 2000, The Boston Globe published an article on the late Cardinal John O'Connor's efforts to promote more positive relations between Catholics and Jews. Edward Koch, former Mayor of New York City and good friend of Cardinal O'Connor, stated: "I heard him say many times - in his homilies, in public statements, privately - that you could not be a good Catholic and be anti-Semitic...He would say, 'Jesus was a Jew. Mary was a Jew.' By that repetition, he was saying you have be pretty stupid to be anti-Semitic. I think that has changed people." Koch and others, including Mordecai Waxman, former head of the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultation, remembered O'Connor's direct efforts to get the Vatican to diplomatically recognize Israel, which it eventually did in 1993. In 1986, O'Connor visited Israel, despite the fact that it was a violation of Vatican protocol, and he also pushed for the Vatican to open its archives to reveal what relations it had with Nazi Germany. O'Connor also began a policy of having the Holocaust taught in New York Archdiocese schools, which won him an award from Clark University's Center for Holocaust Studies in 1997. Last September, during the High Holy Days, O'Connor sent a letter to friends in the Jewish community, saying: "I ask this Yom Kippur that you understand my abject sorrow for any member of the Catholic Church, high or low, including myself, who may have harmed you or your forebears in any way."