THE ELEVENTH MEETING OF THE
Amsterdam, March 27-29, 1984
The 11 th meeting of the International Liaison Committee between the Catholic Church and Jewish leaders from many parts of the world took place on March 27-29, 1984 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The meeting is sponsored on the Catholic side by the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and on the Jewish side by the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), which is composed of the World Jewish
Congress, the Synagogue Council of America, the American Jewish Committee, the B'nai B'rithAnti-Defamation League, and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Consultations.
Participating also were representatives of the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg), Rabbi Rene Sirat, chief rabbi of France, and Dr. Norman Solomon, representing the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth.
The site of Amsterdam was chosen by the Jewish side especially to honor the positive history of Dutch Christian-Jewish relations and His Eminence, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands. Beginning with his leadership at the Second Vatican Council under Augustin Cardinal Bea, and continuing as President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Cardinal Willebrands has been a key architect in the international movement to further Catholic Jewish relations. Cardinal Willebrands was present and participated throughout the meeting. Chairing the sessions alternately were Dr. Gerhard M. Riegner, co-chair of the governing board of the World Jewish Congress and of IJCIC, and the Rev. Pierre Duprey, vicepresident of the Holy See Commission.
The theme of the meeting was "Youth and Faith, and the Reaction of Youth to the Social Problems of Our Times." Professor Riccardo Tonelli, S.D.B., of Rome, presented the question as it appears in Catholic ecclesial communities, under the titles "A Challenge between Hopes and Problems." He took as his starting point the relationship of faith and culture and, basing his views upon extensive studies of Italian youth, revealed the fragmentation of belief consequent upon the contemporary disillusionment with technology and rationalism as responses to the questions of the meaning of life. Tonelli stated, however, that he saw many signs of hope in the midst of this crisis of belief. The search for meaning is itself a deeply religious motivation. The traditional faith-experience, the "message" of our religions, must be re-formulated today to take into account the personal and communal experience of the present generation.
Professor Gordon Tucker of Jewish Theological Seminary in New York defined faith as a process by which women and men endow the experiences of life with meaning in a comprehensive way. Faith, he argued, is therefore inherently interactive and social, and reflects the style of the community that professes it. From an American point of view, he noted, the danger facing youth is not so much a lack of vision as an uncritical acceptance of the exclusivist demands and authoritarian style of certain religious groups and "secular religions." The challenge to Jews and Christians, he suggested, is to nurture faith in communities which are based rather on intellectual and moral autonomy, tolerance, and respect for others, and modesty with respect to God's truth.
Responses were then given by four young people, two Jewish and two Catholic. Avraham Burg of Jerusalem noted three major areas of tension with which Israeli Jewish youth must grapple: (1) the social, i.e. whether intensely pluralist Israel can survive without the "common denominator" of traditional Jewish practice to draw its disparate elements together; (2) the existential, i.e. how to justify at one and the same time both the diaspora and the ingathering of Jews into Eretz Israel; and (3) the ideological, i.e. the twin issues of peace and power from the point of view of Jewish ethics. Can there be, he asked, in the name of the first generation of Jews in two millenia to grow up within a Jewish state, a true synthesis between Zionism and Judaism?
Claudio Betti of the Community of St. Egidio in Rome and Marloes Arendsen of Amsterdam stressed the materialism, individualism and lack of social motivation in many of today's young people, placing this in contrast to the idealism of the 1960's. Speaking from their own experiences, they also indicated signs of hope, especially the living of faith in community.
David Kessler of Paris stressed the specific problems of the younger generation today, again in comparison to that of the 1960's. While the current disarray, the consequences of the Shoah (Nazi genocide), and the breakdown of all revolutionary models, as well as the nuclear threat create a problem for faith they also provide a genuine challenge. Kessler emphasized the responsibility of educators, who should enable the students to ask the right questions based upon both universalism and the quest for one's own identity within the community.
The meeting concluded with an exchange of information on matters of mutual interest, as well as updates of previous discussions. These included recent efforts by the Catholic Church in improving the quality of teaching about Jews and Judaism in Catholic education; a follow-up to the survey of antisemitism world-wide; a review of recent statements by the Pope and episcopal conferences; efforts at the renewal of seminary education by both Catholic and Jewish agencies;
the positive changes of attitude of the Catholic Church in Poland on Jews and Judaism; and steps
taken in Israel to combat attacks upon religious institutions. The recent intervention of Roger
Cardinal Etchegaray of Marseilles at the Synod of Bishops in Rome on October 4, 1983, received careful and grateful attention.
The participants in the meeting paid a moving visit to the Portugese Synagogue, built in the 17th Century, and to the Anne Frank House. A reception for the group was held by the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities of the Netherlands (OJEC), at the Israélietisch Kerkgenootschap (Jewish Community Center), where the sessions of the meeting were held.
It was proposed and accepted that the 20th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council Declaration, on the Jews, Nostra Aetate no. 4, be celebrated as an occasion for assessing the progress achieved since that time and planning for the future.