Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

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Temple Achduth Vesholom, Fort Wayne
I wish to begin by thanking Rabbi Javier Cattapan for the kind invitation to speak at this annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.  How important and beautiful it is for the diverse religious communities of Fort Wayne to gather in friendship and solidarity.  On Thanksgiving, we remember the pilgrims in the Massachusetts colony.  Well, we are all pilgrims on this earth – pilgrims of truth and peace, commonly engaged as people of faith conscious of our responsibility for one another, for our world, and for the whole of creation.  We must live and work together to assist the poor, the needy and those who suffer as well as to promote justice, reconciliation, and peace.
We are called to respect each others’ noble religious traditions.  The genuine patrimony of our religious traditions is the basis of our common efforts to awaken the ethical consciousness of our respective members to generate a much-needed spiritual and moral rebirth in our society.
We gather this evening in mutual respect for one another.  Mutual respect is essential for interreligious relations to flourish and grow.  “Respect” means “an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem.  ‘Mutual’ means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by all” (Pope Francis).  We respect each other’s religion, its teachings, its symbols and values.  We respect one another’s ethnic and cultural identity.  When we respect each other and each other’s religion, we build relationships which can grow into sincere and lasting friendships.  Our gathering this evening is a sign of our mutual respect and friendship.
We also gather this evening in solidarity.  When we have mutual respect and grow in friendship, this naturally gives rise to a sense of solidarity with others.  We realize that, regardless of our religious differences, all of us belong to the one human family.  The promotion of a culture of solidarity is an imperative in the world today, especially in the context of a materialism that disregards spiritual and religious values and in the context of an individualism that neglects the common good.  In Brazil this past summer, Pope Francis said that in the end, a “culture of solidarity means seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but as brothers and sisters.”  A culture of true solidarity requires the effort of us all in service of the common good.  Through friendship and solidarity as brothers and sisters, we strengthen our community.  Some years ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated that “the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole.”
I was asked to speak this evening a bit about our community’s embrace of immigrants.  This is part of what I’ve been speaking about in terms of a “culture of solidarity.”  I could speak at length about the issue of immigration since the Catholic Church has a large body of teaching on this topic and comprehensive immigration reform is one of the top priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  But, in the context of our gathering this evening, I will present some thoughts that elucidate the principles I think