SIXTH ANNUAL MEETING
OF THE INTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC-JEWISH LIAISON COMMITTEE
Venice, Italy, March 28-30, 1977
The sixth annual meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee took place in Venice, Italy, from March 28 to 30. The sessions were held in the Casa Cardinale Piazza, a conference centre of the Patriarchate of Venice.
The Liaison Committee is composed of representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC).
Previous meetings of the Liaison Committee took place in Paris, Marseille, Antwerp, Rome and Jerusalem.
The consultation in Venice was opened by Bishop Ramon Torrella, Vice-President of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, who introduced the newly appointed Secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Revd. Jorge Mejia of Buenos Aires. Revd. Mejia is the former Secretary of the Department of Ecumenism of the Latin American Conference of Catholic Bishops (CELAM).
The main subject of the Catholic- Jewish consultation was a presentation of a study paper on "The Mission and Witness of the Church". The paper was delivered by Professor Tommaso Federici, Professor of Bible at the Pontifical Urbaniana University and at the Liturgical Institute of San Anselmo in Rome.
Information was exchanged on issues of common concern, including Catholic-Jewish study programmes in various countries, development of national and regional cooperation between Catholics and Jews, and the status of human rights. A preliminary exchange of views was held on the presentation of Judaism and Christianity in their respective educational programmes.
In his paper, Professor Federici stated that the Catholic Church "emphatically takes as belonging to her the sublime command... of making known the name of the One God among all people of the earth in every age". In doing so, according to Professor Federici, the Roman Catholic Church feels closely connected to the task of the Jewish people in the world. He said that "it is becoming clearer in the Catholic Church today, despite any temptation which may exist to the contrary, that the mission she receìved from her master is above all to live in faithfulness to God and man; it is unity in love, respect for all brothers, service without distinction of persons, sacrifice, goodness".
This understanding of her mission precludes proselytism, Professor Federici declared. "The Church thus rejects in a clear way every form of proselytism. This means the exclusion of any sort of witness and preaching which in any way constitutes a physical, moral, psychological or cultural constraint on the Jews, both individuals and communities, such as might in any way destroy or even simply reduce their personal judgement, free will and full autonomy of decision at the personal or community level".
"Also excluded is every sort of judgement expressive of discrimination, contempt or restriction against the Jewish people as such, and against individual Jews as such or against their faith, their worship, their general culture and, in particular, their religious culture, their past and present history, their existence and its meaning. Also excluded are hateful forms of comparison, and especially those harmful ones already condemned by Nostra Aetate, 4 (the Second Vatican Council Declaration of the Jews) and then by the 'Guidelines and Suggestions for the Implementation of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate No. 4' which exalt the religion and fact of Christianity by throwing discredit on the religion and fact of Judaism, whether in the past or in the present".
Professor Federici stated that "attempts to set up organizations of any sort, particularly educational or welfare organizations for the 'conversion' of Jews must be rejected. On the contrary encouragement is to be given to all efforts to get to know the history of Israel, starting with the Bible and exploring in depth the spirit, the existence, the history and the mission of Israel, her survival in history, her election and call, and her privileges which are recognised by the New Testament".
Professor Federici stressed that Roman Catholics, in developing the directives outlined in the Second Vatican Council Declaration on the Jews and in the Vatican Guidelines for the Implementation of that Declaration, the following themes need to be made more explicit: 1) the permanence of Judaism in God's plan; 2) the irreversibly changed attitude of the Roman Catholic Church concerning its relationship to Judaism; 3) the new attitude of the Roman Catholic Church favouring dialogue with the Jewish people "without mental reservations".
Responding to Professor Federici's paper, Rabbi Henry Siegman of New York noted that it is a Catholic document dealing with Catholic theological issues. As such, its unqualified condemnation of proselytism and its rejection of "all attempts to set up organizations of any sort" for the conversion of Jews represents a significant development in the Catholic Church that is bound to contribute to a deeper understanding between the two faiths.
Professor Shemaryahu Talmon of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem informed the consultation of a cooperative study programme jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and the Hebrew University. The programme brings students of the Pontifical Institute to the Hebrew University for two semesters of intensive studies in Hebrew language, Bible, Jewish history, geography and archeology. According to Professor Talmon, this programme is serving as a model for the development of similar academic programmes both in Israel and in European countries.
The Catholic Bishops of the Federal Republic of Germany recently designated a permanent work group on "The Church and Judaism", whose goal is the promotion of dialogue with the Jewish people, it was reported by Bishop Karl B. Flügel, Auxiliary Bishop of Regensburg. The theme "Israel and Judaism" has been a regular feature of the annual Katholikentage (a general assembly of German Catholics).
Theodore Freedman of New York, in a report to the Liaison Committee, highlighted a variety of educational programmes presently underway in the United States designed to further Jewish-Catholic understanding. He noted that special attention was being given by Catholic and Jewish institutions involved in interreligious programming to building into the educational institutions of the Church the systematic study of Jews and Judaism.
In Latin America, the dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism is carried on at the highest level by the Latin American Conference of Catholic Bishops (CELAM) and representatives of Latin American Jewish communities, it was reported by Revd. Jorge Mejia. Jewish members of the Liaison Committee expressed their appreciation for the support given to Latin American Jewry by the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America in the face of anti-Semitic manifestations.
A reception at the Casa Cardinale Piazza in honour of the members of the Liaison Committee was tendered by the Jewish community of Venice. Special guests were Cardinal Albino Luciani, Patriarch of Venice, the personal representative of the Mayor of Venice, and the Rabbis of Padua and Trieste.
The Jewish participants in the meeting were:
Rabbi Henry SIEGMAN, Executive Vice-President, Synagogue Council of America (New York)
Dr. Gerhart RIEGNER, Secretary General, World Jewish Congress (Geneva)
Mr. Zachariah SHUSTER, Consultant, American Jewish Committee (Paris)
Dr. Joseph L. LICHTEN, representative of ADL of B'nai B'rith in Rome
Prof. Shemaryahu TALMON, Chairman, Jewish Council in Israel on Interreligious Consultations (Jerusalem).
Mr. Fritz BECKER, World Jewish Congress (Rome)
Rabbi Balfour BRICKNER, Union of American Hebrew Congregations (New York)
Dr. Ernst Ludwig EHRLICH, Director, B'nai B'rith (Riehen, Switzerland)
Mr. Theodore FREEDMAN, Director, National Program Division, ADL of B'nai B'rith (New York)
Mr. Abraham KARLIKOW, European Director, American Jewish Committee (Paris)
Rabbi Mordecai WAXMAN, Chairman, Committee on Interreligious Affairs of the Synagogue Council of America (New York).
The Catholic participants were:
H.E. Msgr. Ramon TORRELLA, Vice-President of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (Rome)
Msgr. Charles MOELLER, Vice-President of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and Secretary General of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (Rome)
Fr. Bernard DUPUY, O.P., Secretary of the Commission for Relations with the Jews of the French Episcopal Conference and Director of "ISTINA" (Paris)
Rev. Roger LE DEAUT, CSSp, Ordinary Professor of Aramaic Targumic Literature at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome)
H.E. Msgr. Karl B. FLüGEL, Auxiliary Bishop of Regensburg (Fed. Rep. of Germany)
Rev. Jorge MEJIA, Secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (Buenos Aires)
H.E. Msgr. Francis J. MUGAVERO, Bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Prof. Tommaso FEDERICI, Professor of Biblical Theology, Consultant of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (Rome)
Revd. Msgr. George HIGGINS, Secretary for Research, National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Washington, D. C.)
Revd. Msgr. Pietro ROSSANO, Secretary General of the Vatican Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions and Consultant of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (Rome)
Revd. Msgr. Eric SALZMANN, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (Rome)