Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
As the political leaders of Europe come together to try to save the euro, and with it the very project of European Union, I believe the time has come for religious leaders to do likewise, and I want to explain why. What I hope to show in this lecture, is first, the religious roots of the market economy and of democratic capitalism. They were produced by a culture saturated in the values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and market economics was originally intended to advance those values. Second, the market never reaches stable equilibrium. Instead the market itself tends to undermine the very values that gave rise to it in the first place through the process of “creative destruction.” Third, the future health of Europe, politically, economically and culturally, has a spiritual dimension. Lose that and we will lose much else besides. To paraphrase a famous Christian text: what will it profit Europe if it gains the whole world yet loses its soul? Europe is in danger of losing its soul. I want to preface my remarks by thanking His Eminence Cardinal Koch for not only inviting me to deliver this lecture, but being so graciously helpful throughout my trip and private audience with His Holiness.
I want to thank Father Francois-Xavier Dumortier, Rector of the Gregorian University for his kind words of introduction as well as Father Philipp Renczes of the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies and Dr. Ed Kessler of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge for hosting this lecture and for all their support in arranging this visit. These two institutions represent the best of European thought, wisdom and spirituality. Through collaborative work, my hope is that these two institutions will help build a European platform to showcase and apply the resources that this continent with its rich heritage has to offer to build a better future for the world.
I am also honoured to see a number of Ambassadors and many other distinguished guests join us here this evening; I thank you all very much for coming.
I want to begin by saying a word about the relationship between the Vatican and the Jewish people.
The history of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jews was not always a happy or an easy one. Too often it was written in tears. Yet something extraordinary happened just over half a century ago, when on 13 June 1960 the French Jewish historian Jules Isaac had an audience with Pope John XXIII and presented him with a dossier of materials he had been gathering on the history of Christian antisemitism. That set in motion the long journey to Vatican II and Nostra Aetate, as a result of which, today, Jews and Catholics meet not as enemies, nor as strangers, but as cherished and respected friends.
That is one of the most dramatic transformations in the religious history of humankind and lit a beacon of hope, not just for us but for the world. It was a victory for the God of love and forgiveness, who created us in love and forgiveness, asking us to love and forgive others.
I hope that this visit, this morning’s audience with His Holiness, and this lecture might in some small way mark the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship. For half a century Jews and Christians have focused on the way of dialogue that I call face-to-face. The time has come to move on to a new phase, the way of partnership that I call side-by-side.
For the task ahead of us is not between Jews and Catholics, or even Jews and Christians in general, but between Jews and Christians on the one hand, and the increasingly, even aggressively secularising forces at work in Europe today on the other, challenging and even ridiculing our faith.
If Europe loses the Judaeo-Christian heritage that gave it its historic identity and its greatest achievements in literature, art, music, education, politics, and as we will see, economics, it will lose its identity and its greatness, not immediately, but before this century reaches its end.