Archbishop Vincent Nichols and the Chief Rabbi Designate Ephraim Mirvis took part in their first official joint engagement on Tuesday, 18 June, as part of a multi-faith delegation organised by the Council of Christians and Jews.
The visit to Gibraltar was organised for the delegation to observe Gibraltar’s exceptional and successful model of inter-faith community relations. The CCJ delegation also included the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Interfaith Relations the Rev Dr Toby Howarth, The Emeritus Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, Chair of the CCJ Bishop Nigel McCulloch and CCJ Vice Chair Maurice Ostro.
During the day-long trip, the group met with President of the Gibraltar Jewish Community James Levy QC CBE, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Governor of Gibraltar Sir Adrian Johns.
Catholics and Jews in Gibraltar have traditionally co-existed in friendship and mutual respect. The visit gave the CCJ delegates the opportunity to familiarise themselves with this relationship and the positive social cohesion.
Full text of speech delievered by Archbishop Vincent Nichols:
Your Excellency, Chief Minister, Mr Levy, Dean Paddock, Rabbi Hassid, Bishop Heskett, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
It has been a remarkable day, full of insights into your remarkable and vibrant community. Thank you for the warm welcome and great hospitality that you have given me and the other members of our delegation. There have been so many images that I will take away from this visit, not least the Sephardic choir that we have just had the privilege of listening too.
The beauty of Gibraltar with those spectacular views is also something that is striking for a first-time visitor such as myself. Yet the most powerful memories that I will retain are those of the people I have been privileged to meet.
Gibraltar is unique and that history has formed a people strong in their identity and also generous in their spirit, not least in your tradition of respect for the various religious communities that enrich this land. I have learnt much about the vitality of all the faiths, especially the growing contribution of the Jewish community. The recent award by Her Majesty of a CBE to James Levy is another example of how much the Jewish presence is integrated into the very fabric of Gibraltarian society.
I am also delighted to have been able to spend time with Bishop Ralph Heskett and members of the Catholic community here in Gibraltar. Celebrating Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe has been a great privilege, in a shrine of such importance.
It has been for me a real joy undertaking this journey with my fellow members of the Council for Christians and Jews. I think the fact that we have travelled together is itself a powerful symbol of our commitment to working together to further the common good. We face many challenges and they are often met most effectively when we provide a shared witness to the virtues that we share and wish to promote in our society. The way in which I have seen you work together for the good of Gibraltar is something that has both inspired and encouraged me and that I will take home to share with others.
As we near the end of what has been fascinating experience please let me, on behalf of my fellow CCJ presidents, wish you every success as you continue your journeys of faith.