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William Cardinal Keeler received the Seventh Annual Eternal Light Award on March 26, 2006 at a gala dinner held at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, St. Petersburg, Florida. The prior day, His Eminence had quickly returned from Rome where he had joined with the College of Cardinals and Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

Dinner guests heard from Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore as he accepted the Eternal Light Award for his work in promoting interfaith relations, particularly among Catholics and Jews. His Eminence spoke of the continuing progress made from Nostra Aetate forward into the present day and the work that continues among people of faith.

The Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg and Rabbi Jacob Luski, Congregation B’nai Israel, St. Petersburg opened the dinner with a co-invocation. The Most Reverend John J. Nevins, Bishop of Venice, a long-time supporter of Catholic-Jewish relations attended along with Rabbi Michael Eisenstat, Temple Beth Israel and other dignitaries. The Honorable Rick Baker, Mayor of the City of St. Petersburg spoke about his pride in hosting the annual dinner, the first time it has been held in his city. Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., President of Saint Leo University shared his childhood memories and personal experiences of Jewish individuals who had a lasting impression upon his life.

Center Co-Chairs Carol and Morton Siegler gave their heartfelt comments as they completed their term of office. The Sieglers had provided leadership to the Center for the past two years in their role heading up the Board of Directors and continue to serve on various committees. Thomas Buckridge, Trustee of Saint Leo University and also serving on the Board of the Center, was the Dinner Chairman and spirited master of ceremonies for the evening.

Those who attended enjoyed a beautiful evening on Tampa Bay in downtown St. Petersburg in the company of other committed people. It was a time to celebrate the heroic efforts of noted individuals engaged in promoting interfaith dialog by both their words and actions. As the evening came to a close, Rabbi Eisenstat gave the benediction and sent guests on their way to carry out the message of hope to others.


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