Rabbi Marc Gellman offered a passionate plea for interfaith unity at the Fordham Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education’s (GRE) Sapientia et Doctrina celebration on Oct. 20 at the McGinley Center Ballroom on the Rose Hill campus.
The second annual event, organized by GRE alumni, featured not only the keynote address by Rabbi Gelman, but the presentation of the Founders, Gaudium et Spes and Sapientia et Doctrina awards. In all, 17 people were honored at the dinner and celebration.
Rabbi Gellman was presented Gaudium et Spes Award and accepted it on behalf of his longtime colleague, Monsignor Thomas Hartman, who made up the other half of the so-called God Squad. The pair of religion experts published multiple books, hosted a cable television show and appeared regularly on ABC’s Good Morning America, where they discussed the religious issues of the day.
Monsignor Hartman was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was not present at the awards ceremony. Rabbi Gellman spoke of his relationship with Monsignor Hartman and how they bridged what at times were substantial religious and cultural gaps to become close friends.
Rabbi Gelman also discussed the historic Second Vatican Council document known as Nostra Aetate, which was passed in 1965 and laid the groundwork for building stronger relationships between Catholics and those of other faiths. It is known formally as the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.
“It didn’t eliminate—nor could it—the kind of ignorant bigotry that I face in my faith and that you face in yours,” said Rabbi Gellman. “But what it did do, what it did for the modern world and for the modern church, is that it ended all possibility of a bigot standing up and preaching bigotry in the name of Christ. Without it, I could have never found, as my best friend, a priest.”