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RELATIONS BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND JUDAISM

 

In order to give on outline of relations between the Church and Judaism during 1970-71, it is pos­sible to distinguish two levels of contacts and work: the national and the international levels, the situation in the Churches of the various countries and the situation at the level of the universal Church.

1. In some countries, particularly the United States, contact with Judaism is taken very seriously. Meetings for study and dialogue regularly take place and are marked by genuine and profound mutual respect. At these meetings the many ques­tions facing Jews and Christians are dealt with, in a spirit of sincere enquiry and religious serious­ness.

In the vast majority of countries and dioceses the question has not yet received attention and nothing is being done about it. The declaration of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, remains a dead letter in these places.

2. At the level of the universal Church:

a) In December 1970 there was held, in the main hall of the Secretariat for Unity, a first meet­ing between the representatives of the " International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Con­sultations " and members of the Secretariat for Unity and of other Roman offices of the Catholic Church. That meeting, which was opened by Cardinal Willebrands, studied a project for the organization of relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism on the international level. During the session two series of questions were discussed: questions directly concerning relations between the two for the good of mankind.

At the close of the meeting it was proposed that there should be set up a Liaison Committee which would give direction to the study and work to be done in the two sectors.

b) Following the meeting between Catholics and Jews at the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in December 1970, a Liaison Committee was set up, consisting of five members from each side.

The Catholic members, named by Cardinal Willebrands with the approval of Pope Paul VI, are as follows:

The Most Reverend Roger Etchegaray

Archbishop of Marseilles, Chairman of the Council of Episco­pal Conferences in Europe.

The Most Reverend Francis Mugavero

Bishop of Brooklyn (USA), Moderator of the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in USA.

The Reverend Jerome Hamer, o.p.

Secretary General of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity; Rome.

The Reverend Bernard Dupuy

Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for relations with Judaism in France, Paris.

The Reverend Cornelius Rijk

In charge of the office for Catholic-Jewish Relations, attached to the SPUC, Rome.

The Jewish members, delegates of the Inter­national Jewish Committee for Interreligious Con­sultations, representing the major Jewish organ­izations which make up this Committee, are as follows:

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg

Chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Inter­religious Consultations, Englewod, N. J., USA.

Dr. Gerhart Riegner

Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, Geneva.

Rabbi Henry Siegman

Executive Vice-president of the Synagogue Council of Ame­rica, New York.

Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum

National Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, New York.

Professor Zvi Werblowsky

Chairsman of the Jewish Council for Interreligious Contacts in Israel, Jerusalem.

Doctor Joseph Lichten

Observer on behalf of B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League.

The aim of this Liaison Committee was defined as follows: the improvement of mutual understand­ing between the two religious communities, the exchange of information and possible cooperation in areas of common responsibility and concern.

The first meeting of the Liaison Committee took place in the Jewish Consistory in Paris on December 14-16, 1971, and was presided over alternately by the Chairmen of the two delegations, Father Jerome Hamer and Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. The members were welcomed by the Chief Rabbi of France, Jacob Kaplan.

Since this was the first meeting of the Liaison Committee in its official form, a certain amount of time was devoted to elucidating the historical background of the Committee. In this regard, Father Hamer, referring to Articles 94 and 28 of Regimini Ecclesiae explained the position and limits of the task of the Catholic representatives. While it pertains to the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church "to deal with all that concerns rela­tions with civil governments " (28), it is in the com­petence of the Secretariat to deal with " questions concerning the Jews under the religious aspect " (94). This is no way restricts the scope of our func­tion, buth rather indicates a method for our use and provides us with a clarification. On the Jewish side, it was noted that such a division of compe­tences often creates a certain difficulty, since in Jewish eyes all questions concerning Jews and Ju­daism have a religious aspect. A close collaboration between the two bodies in Rome was suggested as desirable.

On the basis of the " Memorandum of Under­standing " of December 1970, the Committee studied two questions concerning relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism: the way in which the relationship between religious community, people and land is conceived in the Jewish and Catholic traditions, and the promotion of human rights and religious freedom.

After ample discussion, it was decided to name two small mixed commissions made up of experts in the respective fields whose task it will be to study these two problems by examining the spiri­tual sources on both sides. The commissions will be asked to submit their report before November I, 1972 to the Liaison Committee, which will decide how the report is to be used.

It was considered desirable that in certain fields a common position should be reached as far as possible; in other fields the principal aim will be to clarify both similarities and differences with a view to attaining genuine mutual understanding.

There followed an exchange of information on the way in which the Jewish world regards the Church and on a number of situations in which Jews find themselves in difficulty or danger. The question of reciprocal information was considered a very important item of the agenda of future meet­ings.

Regarding the proposal for a common study, which was submitted to His Holiness Pope Paul VI by Mr. Robert Aron (in January 1970), it was noted that a number of points of this proposal were included in the " Memorandum of Understanding " (Rome, 1970), while other points would be dealt with at a later stage of our common studies.

The discussions, which for the first time in his­tory brought together official representatives of the world Jewish community and the Catholic Church in a Liaison Committee which will continue to hold meetings in the future, took place in an atmosphere of frankness and cordiality.

It is hoped that this Liaison Committee will con­tribute effectively to putting into practice the di­rectives of the Second Vatican Council.

 

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