Spiritual Me

February 4, 2014

The Bishop and The Rabbi

The Bishop and the Rabbi

It was quite an interesting night last night at the UTPA Student Union. Two prominent spiritual leaders sat down for the third time, and had a friendly conversation. They answered an overwhelming number of questions the audience wrote on a piece of paper that was distributed during the presentation.  The event started at 7:00 p.m. and ended a little bit past 9:00 pm.

Just recently, I heard about Pope Francis’ commitment to maintaining interreligious dialogues on faith and reason, and about his book “On Heaven and Earth” which he co-wrote with his good friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka and was published in Argentina in 2010. The book is about faith, family and the church in the 21st century. It is said that in this book, they both sought to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large. The book is a series of conversations about God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization.

The Pope met recently with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the near future. The Pope has also renewed his commitment to Catholic- Jewish relations.

HERMANOS Dialogues for Wisdom was the title of the UTPA event, and a full transcript will be available online soon. During the dialogue, both leaders acknowledged the fact that society has become competitive and most dialogues have become debates and competitions. Both seem to agree that members of these two churches have focused more on what divides them than on what unites them.

The inevitable question about homosexuality came up, and both leaders showed tremendous compassion and respect acknowledging the relevance this particular subject has in modern society. Rabbi Kogan answered questions about the perception of Jesus and the Virgin Mary in Judaism as well as questions about divorce. Bishop Flores said the Catholic Church does not have any problem with divorce, and encourage divorcees to seek their church for healing. He continued stating that maybe the expectations of marriage are unrealistic these days hence the high divorce rate.   There was conversation about the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God. Bishop Flores said that without the Holy Spirit, Catholicism would be like a civic club.

One important topic of the conversation was women in the priesthood to which Bishop Flores said it was a very long shot. Judaism does welcome women rabbis, and Rabbi Kogan shared the Hebrew name given to the wives of rabbis adding that there is no name yet for the husband of a rabbi.

Rabbi Kogan who is a medical doctor, shared his excitement about the new medical school coming to the valley, and added he hopes that new doctors will be able to combine their minds  with their belief in God in order to treat patients as spiritual beings, and not just as mere subjects.

Someone asked about their opinion on the recent controversy involving a Coca-Cola ad featured during the Super Bowl. It appears some were outraged because the ad shows people from different ethnic backgrounds singing America the Beautiful in different languages. Bishop Flores said that the United States has nothing to fear, for most of the world already speaks English; it is a universal language.  He said he loves the fact that the valley is largely bilingual and encouraged parents not to lose their heritage and teach their children not one but several languages. Rabbi Kogan said it is a Jewish tradition for Jewish children to learn at least three languages: the one from the place they live in, a universal language like English and Spanish and Hebrew. Both agreed it is a mistake to neglect our ethnic language.

The subject of immigration came up, and Bishop Flores explained how American Bishops have approached Congress to address the suffering of families and how this is unworthy of a just society. He encourages respect for the immigrant while recognizing that this is a political issue therefore a complicated process.  Another topic was about the changes in modern life that are separating families all over the world, unlike in the old days when aunts, uncles, cousins and entire communities would be as one family looking after each other. Both recommended allowing time to speak to our children and parents, to detach from modern technology for a moment and have good face to face conversations.

People seem to be welcoming these dialogues; one even asked why not have them among progressive and conservative Catholics where, according to this member of the audience, differences seem to be increasing. Someone else asked about inviting a Muslim leader.

Towards the end, the questions became easier. What is your favorite word? Someone asked to what Bishop Flores answered that it was actually two words he liked the most: “Bueno pues.” Rabbi Kogan said Shalom was his favorite because it meant peace and to be integral: whole.

As anyone can imagine, taking notes during two hours of very intense and enlightening conversation presents a challenge, and the dialogue cannot be summarized in a few paragraphs, so we are glad to know that full transcripts will be available soon via hermanosrgv.com . These events will continue and we will post the dates when available.

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About the Author

Tapia - Gonzales
La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Life, art and culture, poetry, prayers, travel, and camping! yes, that's my new thing. I blame the heat and high humidity for the madness. Contributions and comments are always welcome .

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