Pope Francis has conferred upon HUC-JIR alum Rabbi James A. Rudin ’60 the Papal Knighthood of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great in recognition of his extraordinary leadership in fostering interreligious relations, dialogue, and understanding for over 60 years. Rabbi Rudin is the third American rabbi, including HUC-JIR alum Rabbi Leon Klenicki ’67, and the eighth Jew to receive this highest Vatican honor. It is bestowed by the Pope upon individuals in recognition of their significant contributions to society. The Order of St. Gregory the Great was begun by Pope Gregory XVI (1745-1846) in 1831, and named in honor of St. Gregory the Great, who died in 604, and whose writings greatly influenced the Catholic Church. Bishop Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston and Vicar General Regional Bishop – North Region, represented the Pope in this ceremony at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida on November 20, 2022.
From right: Bishop Mark O’Connell; Marcia Rudin; Rabbi James Rudin; Jennifer Rudin; Rabbi Eve Rudin Kleinman.
Rabbi Rudin’s illustrious career has spanned serving as the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) senior interreligious adviser and interreligious affairs director, as a distinguished professor of religion and Judaica at Saint Leo University, and as co-founder of the university’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies. He was a member of the Camp David Presidential Retreat Chapel Committee and co-founded the National Interreligious Task Forces on Soviet Jewry and Black-Jewish Relations.
HUC-JIR President Andrew Rehfeld stated, “We take great pride in Rabbi Rudin’s exemplary achievements in strengthening interfaith relations. As the foremost architect of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, he has brought these faith groups closer together to advance our shared values of peace and justice for our world, as expressed in the Second Vatican Council’s groundbreaking Nostre Aetate declaration almost 60 years ago. His work has established a foundation of mutual respect and understanding among faiths over the past six decades and reflects our institution’s commitment to this mission.”
Rabbi Rudin with Pope John Paul II.
Rabbi Rudin’s close relationship with the Catholic Church is reflected in his many meetings with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and his being the guest of honor at the 1994 Vatican symphony concert commemorating the Holocaust. A columnist for Religion News Service and prolific author, Rudin has written more than a dozen books including his recent memoir, “The People in the Room;” a biography of Rabbi Stephen Wise, “Pillar of Fire” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and “Christians & Jews: Faith to Faith.” He attended Wesleyan University, graduated from George Washington University, received his rabbinical ordination from HUC-JIR in 1960 and served as a United States Air Force chaplain in Japan and Korea.
Rabbi Rudin expressed his gratitude for this honor, saying, “I am deeply honored that Pope Francis has affirmed the extraordinary importance of Catholic-Jewish dialogue through this award. That he has continued the Church’s historic commitment to care for the poor and disenfranchised, as my Jewish tradition calls it – tikkun olam – the repair of the world, makes this moment extremely special. I am proud to accept this papal honor while remembering the many colleagues and friends who have been so important on my incredible interreligious journey.”