The spiritual leader of world Anglicanism met Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger, at Lambeth Palace Tuesday, where they signed a joint declaration which sets out a framework for continuing dialogue between them.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams described the agreement as historic. "This is a most significant step in developing better mutual understanding and trust between the Anglican Communion and the Chief Rabbinate and worldwide Judaism," he said.
The agreement adds to the growing network of bilateral and multilateral dialogues between religious leaders in the Middle East and in the wider world. Anglican churches in the Middle East have particularly welcomed the coming together of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Israel’s Chief Rabbis.
At the meeting, Williams was supported by the Coadjutor Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani and by Bishops Michael Jackson and John Stroyan. The Chief Rabbis were supported by Rabbi David Rosen and by the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations, Sir Jonathan Sacks. The Anglican archbishop paid tribute to Sir Jonathan and to Bishop Suheil for their constructive roles in the discussions leading to the meeting.
Seventy leaders of the Jewish and Christian communities of England attended a reception to witness the signing of the joint declaration.
The guests also heard presentations by the Chief Executive of the Council of Christians and Jews and by the Director of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations. The presentations illustrated the range of new initiatives taken by these two complementary organizations to take forward relationships between Christian and Jewish communities in England.
Dr Williams said that the agreement would help to advance interfaith relations. "This is a potentially fruitful development for relations between Christians and Jews in general and for the peoples of the Holy Land in particular," he stated. "What we’ve agreed today will provide a framework within which both practical and sometimes challenging issues can be discussed on the basis of mutual trust and respect."
The archbishop and chief rabbis also agreed on the need for a renewed sense of urgency in the search for long term peace, justice and security in the Middle East in general and in Israel and the Palestinian territories in particular.
They called for the greatest possible response to the need now for reconstruction and rebuilding both of the physical infrastructure and of the emotional and psychological relations of Christian, Jewish and Muslim believers in the region.
Dr Williams said that the dialogue would make trust and cooperation easier to establish. "We have acknowledged the tensions that shadow the present situation particularly the ongoing tragic conflicts in the Holy Land," he stated. "But our hope has rested very firmly on this; that without friendship and mutual confidence, without the ability to speak to one another candidly and lovingly, we shall never be in a position where our relationship can change things and challenge things and move the situation forward."