Cardinal Vincent Nichols has paid tribute to the former chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, following his death at the age of 72.
Remembering Rabbi Lord Sacks as “a great leader” and “an eloquent spokesman”, the cardinal also said he had “lost a friend” following confirmation of the religious leader’s death.
Rabbi Lord Sacks died in the early hours of Saturday morning, a spokesman for his office confirmed. It comes less than a month after his office announced, on 15th October, that he had been “recently diagnosed with cancer” and was undergoing treatment.
On learning of the death of Rabbi Lord Sacks, Cardinal Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference, paid tribute to a man he described as a friend and “an eloquent proponent of some of the greatest truths of humanity”.
“I mourn the death of Jonathan Sacks. I express my sorrow to the worldwide Jewish community on the loss of this great figure. I assure them of my prayers and condolences.
“Chief Rabbi Sacks was a most eloquent proponent of some of the greatest truths of humanity, so often forgotten. I recall with clarity some of his forceful and persuasive presentations of the truths expressed in Judaism and indeed in the Christian faith, truths which help us to make sense of our lives, our communities and our destinies.”
An Orthodox Jew, born in London on 8th March 1948, Rabbi Lord Sacks became Britain’s chief rabbi – the spiritual head of the largest grouping of Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK – in 1991.
Cardinal Nichols recalled “with joy” Rabbi Lord Sacks’ meeting with Pope Benedict at St Mary’s University on 17th September 2010.
He remembered how Rabbi Lord Sacks had celebrated “our commonalities and difference” during the meeting before giving an “eloquent expression to our shared beliefs”.
Speaking at the time, Rabbi Lord Sacks said: “What led to secularisation was that people lost faith in the ability of people of faith to live peaceably together; and we must never go down that road again. We remember the fine words of John Henry Cardinal Newman, who said, ‘We should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend’.”
Going on to provide an expression to shared beliefs, he added: “In the face of a deeply individualistic culture we offer community. Against consumerism, we talk about the things that have value but not a price. Against cynicism, we dare to admire and respect. In the face of fragmenting families, we believe in consecrating relationships. We believe in marriage as a commitment, parenthood as a responsibility, and the poetry of everyday life; when it is etched, in homes and schools with the charisma of holiness and grace.”
Concluding his tribute, Cardinal Nichols said: “I have lost a friend; the Jewish community a great leader; humanity an eloquent spokesman. May he rest in peace.”
Picture: Archive photo of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in Rome on 18th November 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).