By Jamie O’Brien and Josh Low
Perth Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB last month joined fellow Christian and Jewish leaders in honouring Perth Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Dovid Freilich.
Rabbi Freilich, who is due to retire later this year, delivered an occasional address entitled Religion – Tolerance or Respect? in the presence of some 120 people on Monday 19 June including special guests Redemptoris Mater Seminary Rector Fr Michael Moore SM, Uniting Church Moderator Rev Steve Francis, WA Council of Christian and Jews Honorary Secretary Dr Mary Marshall, Rabbi Adi Cohen from the Perth Temple David Congregation and Imam Kamran Tahir from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Tolerance, said Rabbi Freilich, is defined in the comprehensive ontological dictionary as the ‘lowest form of human cooperation’.
“Let me compare this to another word – Respect. But what is respect?” questioned Rabbi Freilich.
“I’m particularly drawn to two quotes in regards to respect which appeal to me, particularly as applied to our religious differences.” Rabbi Freilich said.
“Respect is the bond that links your true family who is not one of blood, experiencing joy in each other’s life and feeling each other’s pain whether the other person is of the same religious belief or not,” he said.
In discussing the subject of Respect, Rabbi Freilich recalled life examples and experiences relating to his passion for all that to live in harmony, love and peace, no matter what religion, background, race or creed.
In responding to Rabbi Frielich’s address, Archbishop Costelloe said that if children do no more than tolerate their parents, it can hardly be said that they are being faithful to the commandment of God as we find it in Exodus ‘Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you (Ex 20:12).
“Certainly in terms of Christianity, tolerance would be a very poor and inadequate response to Judaism,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“Mere tolerance, as the Rabbi has suggested, while it is certainly better than intolerance, is in many ways a dismissive and even patronising approach towards those who see things differently, and in fact, it might even be seen as a way to keep difference at bay so that we do not have to encounter it, be challenged by it, and learn from it,” he said.
Respect, continued the Archbishop, is very different.
“Respect begins I think, from a presumption of goodness in the other, sincerity in the other, integrity in the other and the possibility of discovering truth in the other.
“None of these attitudes are incompatible with a passionate commitment to one’s own religious tradition and convictions,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“In biblical terms, I think respect is grounded in the fundamental insight expressed so powerfully in the opening pages of the Book of Genesis where we are told that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves … So God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gen 1:1; 26-27).”
The Archbishop concluded his response by thanking Rabbi Freilich for the friendship and support he has shown to him personally and to the Catholic community.
“Thank you for your commitment to the work of the Council for Christian and Jews here in Western Australia.
“Thank you for your presence as a witness in our society to the power and beauty and potential of religious faith in our troubled world.At the conclusion of the address by Rabbi Freilich, Seminarian Liam Ryan, from Perth’s Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary, Redemptoris Mater, sang a hymn of Shema Israel.