The Pope, a rabbi and an imam…it sounds like the beginning of a very funny joke but last week was a reality. As you likely know, last Friday the Pope hosted an interfaith prayer gathering at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This was a trailblazing event and I’ve linked to the video here for those you who have not yet seen it.
As a professor at a Jesuit university, I am delighted by this Pope’s Jesuit background and our claim at affiliation. This service last Friday also was particularly significant for me since the rabbi (the one in the picture above) is my very talented brother in law, Elliot Cosgrove. You can link to his sermon about this experience here.
Should you watch the video, here are some times noted: Cardinal Timothy Dolan speaks first; Elliot begins speaking at 2:55 until about 8 minutes in (alternating with the Imam); the Pope speaks after that with representatives of many faiths speaking after him.
And here is our family’s favorite shot of the day–the Pope greeting my nieces and nephew after the ceremony is concluded (the very cute kid in the middle and his sisters are behind him.)
My warmest memory of all from yesterday relates not directly to the pope, but to my dear friend His Eminence Cardinal Dolan, to whom the city of New York owes a great debt of gratitude for his inspired leadership. The formal part of the program had ended, and as participants were greeting each other, the pope stood for pictures with assorted dignitaries. Off to the side, Cardinal Dolan and I greeted each other warmly, and he said, “Elliot, aren’t your children here?” When I signaled to him where they were sitting, Cardinal Dolan insisted, “Well bring them up here, they should be up here!” I turned around, caught my children’s eye, waved them over, and to make a long story short, was able to give them each the gift of a handshake and smile from the pope that they will never forget.
It is this story, more than any other, to which I have returned in the hours since the event concluded. That in the split second of the chaotic recessional Cardinal Dolan saw me and didn’t see a rabbi, or even necessarily a Jew, but friend and a dad who probably wanted what every dad wants: to make his children happy. It was a gesture of supreme menschlichkeit, and it speaks volumes of Cardinal Dolan and the church he represents. If each one of us had it within ourselves to recognize each other not for our titles, stature, or faith, but for the human beings we are, and then performed acts of friendship and service to validate that common humanity, well then, just think how much better off this world would be. I am grateful to Cardinal Dolan for many things, but it is that one gesture as much as anything, exemplifying the spirit of his ministry, that is worthy of emulation. May we all similarly seek, with humanity and humility, to do so in our own lives, and may the spirit of Pope Francis’s visit continue to inspire our great city for many years to come.