Edward Flannery

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Edward H. Flannery
Father Edward Flannery.jpg
Born(1912-08-20)August 20, 1912
Providence, Rhode Island
DiedOctober 19, 1998(1998-10-19) (aged 86)

Edward H. Flannery (August 20, 1912 – October 19, 1998) was an American priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, and the author of The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism, first published in 1965.

Fr. Flannery was the first director of Catholic-Jewish Relations for the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, a position he held from 1967 to 1976.[1]

Throughout his career, he fought against anti-Semitism and defended the State of Israel and the Jewish people against attacks on the local, national and international levels. Through his work he displayed great sensitivity to issues of the Holocaust and strong promotion of education of the history of anti-Semitism, both for the Jewish and Catholic communities.[2]

Flannery spoke in hundreds of churches, synagogues and other settings to promote an understanding of the work of the Second Vatican Council and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning the Church’s bond with the Jewish people. He was also the President of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, and a consultant to Secretariat of Inter-religious Affairs. His other writings include translations of French religious works and essays and articles as well as a variety of publications.[3]


Early life and career[edit]

Flannery was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of John Flannery, a police officer, and Elizabeth (née Mulvey).[4]

He studied at St. Charles College in Catonsville; and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at St. Sulpice Seminary near Paris. He then earned his master's degree at Catholic University in Washington; and a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Hebrew Union College.[4]

In 1937 he was ordained, and spent most of the next 30 years in the Diocese of Providence working as a pastor and chaplain as well as writing for the diocesan newspaper.

In 1967, Flannery began nine years as the first director of Catholic-Jewish Relations at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He became Associate Director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, and Director of the Continuing Education of the Clergy for the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.[2]

In 1976 he returned to Diocese, Rhode Island, and was concerned with the continuing education of the diocesan clergy and with Catholic-Jewish relations.

On October 19, 1998, Flannery died of pancreatic cancer.

Work and views[edit]

Flannery devoted his life to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews, and to the study of antisemitism.

In his book, "The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism", he provided a thorough account of the history of the world's persecution of the Jews, without dwelling on the lurid details of the atrocities. He covers Pagan anti-Semitism in the Greek and Roman empires, the struggles between Judaism and the early church, Christian Anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages in the various countries of Europe, the age of the Ghetto, the rise of scapegoat Anti-Semitism in the modern, post religious world (particularly in Russia), leading to Hitler's New Paganism and the Holocaust, as well as economic/racial/social Anti-Semitism in America. In the end, Flannery reviews how things stand today.[2]

In relation to the Holocaust, Flannery illustrated the sympathies for the Nazi regime and the "Final Solution" expressed by prominent Arab personages at the time, such as the close confidant of Adolf Hitler, Haj Amin al-Husseini. He traced antisemitism back to the 3rd century BCE, and identified the following strains: Political and economic antisemitism, Theological or religious antisemitism, (also known as anti-Judaism), Nationalistic antisemitism, and Racial antisemitism, as practiced by the Nazis.[2]

In an interview in 1967, Flannery said: "The anti-Semite, not the Jew, is the real Christ-killer. He thinks he's religious, but that's a self-delusion. Actually he finds religion so heavy a burden, he develops 'Christophobia.' He's hostile to the faith and has an unconscious hatred of Christ, who is for him, Christ the Repressor. He uses anti-Semitism as a safety valve for this hostility and is really trying to strike out at Christ."[3]

Father Flannery was awarded honorary doctorates from several institutions, including Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati and Seton Hall University. He received the prestigious Nicholas and Hedy Munk International Brotherhood Award of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews and many other signs of esteem from Christian and Jewish Organizations.[2]

Flannery believes the vast majority of even well-educated Christians have been relatively ignorant of what has happened to the Jews throughout history and the culpable involvement of many facets of the Church. Apart from a few recent publications, there is little about anti-Semitism in Christian history books or social studies. The author states that, by comparison, the Jews themselves are largely and acutely aware of their painful history and physical and verbal attacks in the press.

Flannery also was one of the 53 authors to respond to Simon Wiesenthal's book The Sunflower.[citation needed]


After his death, tributes to his achievements came from Rabbi A. James Rudin, Father John Hotchkin, Director of the NCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and Eugene Fisher, who succeeded him as Director for Catholic-Jewish Relations for the Bishops' Conference.[5]

Speaking at a Mass of Thanksgiving on the occasion of the priest's 50th anniversary of ordination, in 1987, Msgr. George G. Higgins of the Department of Theology of the Catholic University of America, said Father Flannery had been called by God to break new ground, "to address the anguish of the Jews and this, of course, long before the overwhelming majority of his fellow Christians had given so much as a second thought to the Holocaust."[1]

During Flanny's 60th anniversary celebration of his ordination in 1997, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said: “His [Flannery] magnificent spirit, his emphatic heart, his great mind walk with prophets and kings and all those who ennoble the world with their courage and character.”

ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, Rabbi Leon Klenicki, said: “I know Edward’s limitless energy for dialogue and friendship. He is a person of God, sharing his spirituality with all of us. God bless him.”[6] Cardinal William Henry Keeler said: "He was an early and effective pioneer in encouraging Catholics in the United States on how best to implement Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council's charter for fostering positive Catholic-Jewish relationships."

Rabbi A. James Rudin, National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee, (who termed Father Flannery "one of this century's spiritual giants"), said “during Father Flannery's long and distinguished career, he helped build human bridges of mutual respect and understanding between Roman Catholics and Jews.[2] His advice and guidance were always treasured and his articulate voice and writings stirred both Catholics and Jews. The AJC has lost a beloved colleague and friend. He shattered negative caricatures and stereotypes that had existed for centuries. Father Flannery was an unrelenting foe of all forms of anti-Semitism and was a strong supporter of the State of Israel."[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Leaders Mourn Passing of Father Edward Flannery, A Pioneer in Catholic-Jewish Relations" Archived 2014-01-11 at the Wayback Machine, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, October 20, 1998.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Fr. Edward Flannery fought hatred against Jews until his death in 1998". Fight Hatred - The Jabotinsky International Center. 6 December 2011. Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Pace, Edward (October 22, 1998). "The Rev. Edward Flannery, 86, Priest Who Fought Anti-Semitism". New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b Meredith Ahlgren & Andrew H. Summey. "Father Edward H. Flannery papers". Seton Hall University Libraries. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Dr. Eugene J. Fisher - CJCR Hugo Gryn Fellow" (PDF). The Woolf Institute. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Father Edward H. Flannery". Retrieved 11 January 2014.

Further reading[edit]

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