Rabbi A. James Rudin, who headed American Jewish Committee’s pioneering work with the Roman Catholic Church and other faiths for many years, was honored today by Pope Francis with one of the Vatican’s highest awards, the Knight of St. Gregory the Great.

Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, presented the papal knighthood to Rabbi Rudin on behalf of Pope Francis at a ceremony held at Saint Leo University’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies (CCJS). O’Malley expressed the Pope’s heartfelt appreciation and boundless gratitude for Rabbi Rudin’s remarkable contributions to interfaith relations, especially in the Catholic-Jewish domain.

“I am deeply honored that Pope Francis has affirmed the extraordinary importance of Catholic-Jewish dialogue through this award,” said Rabbi Rudin. “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.”

Rabbi Rudin joined the AJC interreligious staff in 1968, became Director of National Interreligious Affairs in 1983, and retired in 2000.  

“As the longtime Director of Interreligious Affairs at AJC – now the agency’s senior interreligious adviser – Rabbi Rudin represented the Jewish people with strength and dignity in its dialogue with other faith groups at the highest levels,” said AJC CEO Ted Deutch. “As a prolific author, he demonstrates singular skill in his introductions to and explanations of Judaism for diverse religious and secular audiences worldwide. Rabbi Rudin inspires us by living the life of an exemplary mensch who continues to be a powerful voice for the Jewish people and a stalwart defender of the State of Israel within and beyond his interreligious sphere.”

Rabbi Rudin played a pivotal role in the establishment of CCJS in 1998 through the joint efforts of Saint Leo and AJC. In 2002, he was appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion and Judaica at Saint Leo University.

“For more than 50 years, Rabbi James Rudin has worked to advance Catholic-Jewish relations, and interfaith relations on a wider scale, with extraordinary skill, dedication, and success,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a statement to the Religion News Service before the ceremony. “The impact of this work continues to grow as successive generations build on the foundation Rabbi Rudin has established.”

The Papal Knight of St. Gregory the Great is the highest honor the Pope bestows upon individuals, both Catholics and non-Catholics, in recognition of their significant contributions to society.

Back to Top