Cardinal Dolan: Christmas, Hanukkah Bring Light to Dark Year

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Cardinal Dolan said Christmas and Hanukkah are just what Christians and Jews in the United States need as they continue to live through a Covid-19 pandemic in a politically divided country.

“Internally, we see darkness, and in our country we see darkness, and in the world we see darkness,” said Cardinal Dolan Dec. 3 on American Jewish Committee (AJC) Advocacy Anywhere online sessions with Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations.

“As your Bible and mine tells us, the powers of darkness are never quiet and of course that’s why we need a little Christmas, that’s why we need a little Hanukkah right this very moment because both of those are feasts of light.”

A second wave of Covid-19 threatens the holiday season as people wait for vaccines to be distributed.

“I’ve heard many people share with me that they have detected within themselves a reservoir of interior strength and a resilience that they didn’t know they had that had given them a strength, a purpose and a focus in a very very difficult time,” Cardinal Dolan said. “In other words, what I hear many of my people say is I’ve discovered the importance of my faith. Now, I’ve got to be honest, I sat with others who were tempted to lose faith and hope, and who wondered about the wisdom and providence of a God who has promised us tender care and who seems to be sleeping on the job.

 “This has been a tough time for us because you and I belong to faith families that are God-centered, but people-oriented. We have a personal relationship with the Lord, but the Lord has revealed himself beginning with the people of Israel. He reveals himself to a community, a group of people, and those people respond with worship and moral living. They respond by keeping the cohesiveness of their community together. We Catholics inherited that from you.”

Rabbi Marans added online sessions for people of faith have worked well during the pandemic, but said he looks forward to seeing people back in full churches and synagogues for religious worship.

“The most positive sign that I have seen is that there seems to be more participation in faith and religion through technology and the question is whether we can translate that to reality because Zoom cannot continue forever as human connection in the most positive sense,” he said. “It’s pretty good for a pandemic. It’s not very good for reality.

“We’ll continue to do it, but we’re human beings. We’re socially driven. We want to hug one another. We want to feel the religion. You can’t feel the religion via Zoom. 

Covid-19 became a heated issue during last month’s elections as people wore masks and practiced social distancing, staying home and avoiding large gatherings in hopes of evading the virus.

“People were bored so they paid more attention to the political race than before,” Cardinal Dolan said. “They’re locked either on CNN or FOX, whichever side they’re in on. That only stirred up more resentment.

“Jews believe and Catholics believe that only God is our Savior. Donald Trump is not our Savior. Joe Biden is not our Savior. Wall Street is not our Savior. Liberals are not our Savior. CNN is not our Savior. FOX News or conservatives are not our Savior. The Pentagon is not our Savior. Only God is our Savior. We make the oldest mistake of all if we believe any person or anything or any position on this earth can bring about a return to salvation. Only the Lord can.”

In the hour-long session, Cardinal Dolan also addressed anti-Semitism and relations between Catholics and Jews, before wishing Catholics and Jews the best for their holiday seasons.

“We believe Jesus is the light of the world. That’s why we have Mass at midnight, it’s the darkest time of the day, and the light comes through,” he said. “The world looks to us to be beacons of light, and not causes of darkness. I kind of think conversations like that provide the oil to the menorah and to the Advent candles that we need.”

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