Archbishop Fisher: Christians and Jews are still walking together

From left: David Lewis, president of Sydney’s Great Synagogue; Dr Emmanuel Nathan, president of the Council of Christians and Jews of NSW; Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ, director of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Relations; Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP; Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue; Menachem Feldman, Senior Chazzan and Assistant Rabbi; and Judith Jaffe, vice president of the Council of Christians and Jews of NSW. Photo: Alphonsus Fok. 

The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, has called for people of all faiths to band together in fraternity, declaring that “all children of Abraham” share a common bond of brotherhood.  

Speaking to a large crowd at the Great Synagogue in Sydney as a guest of the NSW Council of Christians and Jews, Archbishop Fisher delivered a keynote address paying tribute to the late Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, who passed away earlier this year. 

Rabbi Apple, who led the Great Synagogue from 1972-2005, was instrumental in founding the Christian-Jewish Luncheon club in Sydney the 1970’s and was patron of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews. 

During his tribute to the late Rabbi Apple, whom the archbishop described as the “trailblazer of Judeo-Christian relations in Australia,” Archbishop Fisher called for Christians and Jews to always walk together and stand shoulder to shoulder, quoting the words of Solomon, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born to share adversity” (Prov 17:17). 

“Because the ‘Abrahamic’ religions grew up beside each other, with so many family resemblances, we might also think of Jews and Christians as siblings,” Archbishop Fisher said. 

Archbishop Fisher used the opportunity to highlight the updated guidelines and recommendations on Christian/Jewish relations which were published last year, titled Walking Together: Catholics and Jews in the Australian Context. 

Archbishop Fisher with Rabbi Dr Ben Elton. Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

Released by the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference 30 years after the original document Rabbi Apple dubbed “the Australian Nostra Aetate,” Archbishop Fisher applauded the work as a seminal update in the view of society’s changing circumstances.     

“It reminds Christians of the ‘Jewishness’ of Jesus, encourages deeper appreciation of theological overlaps and differences, calls for greater liturgical sensitivity, and proposes various collaborations,” Archbishop Fisher said. 

Closing his remarks, Archbishop Fisher urged all Christians and Jews to walk forward together, recalling Rabbi Apple’s teachings, when asked by a child what he considered to be the most important day of his life. 

“He cleverly responded today and tomorrow. Today, because every day is an exciting new opportunity. Tomorrow, because if I handle today wisely, I can help to shape the future.” 

Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue, Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, spoke of the mutual responsibility Christians and Jews have together to ensure that we remain united in the face of religious discrimination.  

“It’s always an intellectual thrill to hear the archbishop tackle any subject, whether on inter faith relations or any other,” he said. 

Rabbi Elton added that while Rabbi Apple sought to establish a relationship between Christians and Jews for the first time in Australia more than 50 years ago, it was the Catholic Church who ensured the Council of Christian and Jews was a success.  

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Archbishop Fisher gives the Rabbi Apple lecture at Sydney’s Great Synagogue. Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

“It is appropriate we have the archbishop speaking to us because it is from the Catholic Church that came the most enthusiastic and committed response to Rabbi Apple’s call for the establishment of the Council of Christians and Jews here in NSW,” Rabbi Elton said.  

A full transcript of Archbishop Fisher’s address is available on the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney website. 

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