News from Valencia

The Jewish Christian Friendship of Valencia is an association recognised by the Archbishop on 20th January 1994, whose aims are

a) To study the biblical roots of our faith in order to better understand the religious and cultural backgrounds in which Christianity was born. As Christians put it:  “Jesus Christ, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel,” which is the beginning of the Apostolic Church.
b) To promote mutual knowledge of both religions and friendship with the Jewish people, with whom we have strong ties, according to the instructions of the declaration “Nostra Aetae” of the Vatican Council II.

Its territorial realm is the diocese of Valencia and the address is 54, Cirilo Amoros Street (a Dominican Convent) in the city of Valencia. The association promotes Bible study, being faithful to the doctrines and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, promoting the study of Judaism and Jewish culture, historically and in the current relations between Jews and Christians. Courses and conferences are organised. We also have a library and documentation centre and collaborate with other groups and individuals with similar aims. We have a website  where you can find past conferences and future activities as well as a short background. The “Friendship” mainly is financed by annual membership fees, with about 60 members at present, who contribute 50 euros annually. There are about as many men as women, being mainly from Christian Spanish origin.

The “Friendship” was inspired by Sister Ionel Mihalovici, NDS, the Director of Centro de Estudios Judeo-Cristianos of Madrid, that publishes the magazine “El Olivo” (The Olive Tree). Sister Ionel encouraged Valencia’s subscribers to the  magazine (as Jose Miguel Sustaeta, Canon of the Cathedral and retired Professor of Liturgy at the Theological Faculty, as well as Teresa Soler Llopis, Mari Cruz Tomas Barrachina and the married couple Francisco Fontana Tormo and Rosa Maria Vinat Collado) to form a group of Jewish-Christian Friendship. When we met at the beginning of 1989, the former Archbishop Miguel Roca, also a subscriber to the same magazine, encouraged us and he gave us his approval. Therefore the group decided to initiate its first activities. We can use the Dominican Convent, through Juan Bosch OP, Delegate of Ecumenism. The first activity was celebrated in 1990, a Seder Haggada Pesaj, directed by Jose Miguel Sustaeta, where the relationship between the Pesach, Easter, and the Christian Eucharist was seen.

The first lecture was “Jesus Christ from the Jewish point of view” by Rabbi Baruj Garzon, on June 10, 1991 at the Faculty of Theology. After which Sister Ionel Mihalovici, came to Valencia to give a lecture “The origins of the Jewish-Christian Friendship” on June 19, 1992. D. Agustin Garcia-Gasco, new Archbishop of Valencia, gave his approval to the Statutes of the Association on January 20, 1994. The Founding Assembly took place at February 2, 1994, the Holiday of the Presentation at the Temple. Now members could be registered and the “Friendship” was registered at the Registry Office of Associations of the Generalitat Valencia.

From the very beginning the association has been on good terms with the Jewish community of Valencia and promotes mutual knowledge between Jews and Christians through various activities, such as monthly lectures and trips to places of interest for Jews and Christians. Throughout the 144 meetings over the years, some of those which stand out the most have been: Samuel Toledano, “Diplomatic relations between the Israel and the Vatican” (23-11-1994); Sor Esperanza Mary NDS “Jerusalem in modern Israeli Literature” (21-4-1996); Prof. Shalom Rosenberg, Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Jewish Spirituality in Post-Modernism” (14-10-2001); Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris “The friendship between Jews and Christians and its meaning for Christians” (6-6-2005); Samuel Hadas, the first Ambassador of Israel in Spain and the Vatican, “The winding road to relations with Israel for Spain and the Vatican” (9-7-2008); Prof. Daniel Fainstein, Rector of the Hebrew University in Mexico,” Yosef Soloveitchik and the Solitude of the Man of Faith” (10-6-2009); and Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, “The Present Situation of Jewish-Christian Dialogue” (14-8-2011.) 

Delegates from the association have also attended two conventions of ICCJ, the first meeting was “The Other as mystery and challenge, The significance of the Jewish People for the Christian Church and of the Christian Church for the Jewish People” Rome, 7-11 September 1997) which was cordially welcomed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in the General Audience on the 10th September and a second encounter “Convivencia - Enhancing Identity through Encounter between Jews, Christians and Muslims” Seville 2-6 July 2000). The culmination of this activity was the XIX Spanish-Israeli Symposium –“The family, social structures and the transmission of culture” in October 2006, held in Valencia, with the collaboration of the Jewish-Christian Study Centre of Madrid and the University CEU Saint Paul, which had the assistance of outstanding intellectuals, both Spanish and Israeli.

The association promotes journeys and pilgrimages to places of interest for Jews and Christians. These are trips we have done so far: A trip to Besalu and the city of Toledo and to the Jewish Quarters in Sagunto, in 2002 and 2003.For the 10th anniversary of the association, we celebrated with a pilgrimage to Rome. We visited the Ardeatines Graves, symbolic place for the democratic Italy and we were welcomed by a General Audience with His Holy Father Pope John Paul II who greeted two delegates from the association, one Christian and the other Jewish. There was also an encounter with Mons. Norbert Hoffman, Secretary of the Pontifical Committee for the relations with the Jewish people and we also visited the Great Synagogue in Rome.

 A group of 25 people travelled to Paris to see the Jewish Quarters. The coordination of the journey was done by Father Patrick Desbois, the French Episcopal Conference Delegate for Jewish people. We visited the Synagogue “De la Victoire” were greeted by Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, and we visited the Jewish Museum, the Memorial of the Shoa and the SIDIC Centre. We also had a nice walk through the Rue Rossiers in the Jewish Quarter, visiting bookshops and other stores.

We made a pilgrimage to Israel (April 2006) with 45 group members in attendance. There, we visited diverse emblematic Christian and Jewish  places, such as the Holy Sepulchre, the Kotel and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Annunciation Basilica in Nazareth, the Safed Synagogues and the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. We had a trip to “Jewish London” (March 2007), visiting the Jewish Museum, the headquarters of the CCJ and the Sisters of Sion Headquarters, as well as attending the Arvit service in the New London Synagogue.

Then, there was a trip to Poland-Prague (July 2007) visiting the Synagogues of Prague and Krakow. In Auschwitz we prayed in the martyred place of Saint Maximilian Kolbe and in one of the barracks of the Birkenau Camp, we pronounced some very significant words referring to the Holocaust and we prayed for all of the Jewish and non-Jewish victims. In the city of Warsaw, a tribute was paid to the Monument of the Rebellion of the Ghetto, placing a wreath for the victims.

On a trip to Germany, (July 2008) we visited the cities of Aachen, Erfurt, Wartburg, Weimar, Leipzig and Wittenberg and the Buchenwald Camps. In Berlin we visited the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial. We went to the Jewish Quarters in Mallorca (December 2009.)We also went to Lyon-Izieu, visiting the Great Synagogue in Lyon and the Memorial House in Izieu. We visited the Monasteries of Boege, Taize and Salette. We also visited the Reformation Wall and the Palace of Nations in Geneva.

On our pilgrimage to Rome (January 2012,) we met with the association “Amizi Catolici d´Israele” and with Mordejai Lewi, Ambassador of Israel in the Vatican and again with Mons. Norbert Hoffman, Secretary of the Pontifical Committee for relations with the Jewish People. We met with the Jewish-Christian Friendship of Rome and attended Holy Mass in Saint Andrea delle Fratte, finally visiting the Great Synagogue.