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15TH MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL LIAISON COMMITTEE
OF IJCIC AND CRRJ

May 1994, Jerusalem

 

The 15th meeting of the International Liaison Committee of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (CRRJ) and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) took piace in Jerusalem on May 23-26, 1994

 

AN ACCOUNT OF THE MEETING

The fifteenth meeting of the International Catho­lic-Jewish Liaison Committee [ILC] took piace on May 23-26 1994 in Jerusalem, Israel. The ILC brings together the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation (IJCIC).  This was the ILC's second meeting in Israel, the pre­vious one having taken piace in 1976. The nature of the dialogue over the years, as expressed by co-chairs Cardinal Edward Cassidy and Dr. Geoffrey Wigoder, is that of "two ancient religious communities coming together in a spirit of mutuai esteem and recipro­city ".

The co-chairs in their opening presentations noted that the warmth of the present encounter was enhanced by its new and encouraging setting in the context of the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel, signed on December 30, 1993. This atmosphere was reflected at a dinner hosted by the President of the World Jewish Con­gress, Edgar M. Bronfman, under the auspices of the Israel Council of Foreign Relations. Dr. Yossi Beilin, Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Arch­bishop Andrea di Montezemolo, Special Representa­tive to the State of Israel. Both noted that the Agree­ment constitutes a significant moment in the history of the relationship between the Holy See and the State of Israel, which will also bring positive conse­quences for relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. WJC Secretary General, Rabbi Israel Singer, referred to the many obstacles that had been overcome between the two religious commu­nities to reach the current, more positive state of rela­tions. The meeting was greeted by the mayor of Jeru­salem, Ehud Olmert.

Appreciation was expressed by the ILC for the commitment in the Fundamental Agreement by the Holy See and the State of Israel to work together to combat all forms of antisemitism and all kinds of racism and of religious intolerance. It was proposed that appropriate means of contact be worked out between these efforts and the parallel commitment to fight antisemitism taken by the ILC in Prague in 1990.

For its sessions on "The Family: Traditional Per­ceptions and Contemporary Realities", the group moved to the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, where they were greeted by the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ronni Milo. Papers were presented by Dr. Cari Anderson of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington. D.C.; Rabbi Haskel Look­stein, President of the Synagogue Council of Amer­ica; and Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. There followed a lively exchange of views on the many challenges facing marriage and the family in the " post-modern" world. While noting differences in perspective needing further study, the group dis­cerned significant convergent values, as exemplified in the text of the "Joint Declaration on the Family", approved by the meeting.

In another session, two papers on Ecology were presented as the beginning of a process to be fol­lowed up in the future. These were by Sr. Marjorie Keenan, RSCM, of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Rabbi Norman Solomon of the Cen­tre for the Study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations, Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, U.K. The two papers revealed what Solomon called " profound common underlying values " for under­standing and responding to global crises. Both began with reference to the opening chapters of Genesis, affirming the goodness of God's creation and human responsibility or " stewardship" for it. Both sought practical consequences of that shared biblical vision in view of the complex challenges of today, ranging from disposal of nuclear and other waste to the preservation of various species in view of what Keenan described as "the inalienable dignity of the human person". Many other common themes emerged. As Archbishop William H. Keeler of Balti­more summarized, " the potential for dialogue is as great as the issues are urgent".

In the framework of an exchange of information, prof. Hans Herman Henrix, Director of the Bisched­liche Akademie des Bistums Aachen, reported on the progress in drafting a statement on Antisemitism and the Shoah by a working group of German Catholics for a statement intended to be issued by the Vatican, as first announced in 1987. The German group has also discussed some perspectives of its draft state­ment with the Commission for Dialogue of the Polish Bishops Conference. This report was warmly wel­comed by the Jewish delegation for the " spirit and direction" of the work in progress.

Reports on the wide range of educational advances in Catholic educational approaches to the presentation of Jews and Judaism were given for Poland by Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno, for the French Episcopal Conference by Rev. Jean Dujardin of Paris, and for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops [U.S.A.] by Dr. Eugene J. Fisher of Washington, D.C. A special expression of appreciation was made by the Jewish delegation for the extensive work of the Polish Bishops. Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granafoor and Rabbi Henry Sobel also intervened with information on work done in Jewish educational institutions.

Dr. Gerhart Riegner, Honorary Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress spoke on " The Future Role of the ILC". He affirmed the sense of the present moment as one of new beginnings and opportunities in the light of recent developments. He urged a basic re-thinking of the work of the ILC and its methodology. Noting that 1995 has been pro­claimed the " International Year of Tolerance" by the United Nations, he proposed a concentration on this subject in the coming year. It was also agreed that the issue of human rights must be a top priority in the work of the Committee. The meeting also endorsed his suggestion to promote the spirit of the dialogue in other regions, including certain countries of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. and discussed the possibility of sending joint missions to these areas and holding regional Conferences.

A special moment of the conference was the mee­ting with President Ezer Weizmann in his residence. Greetings were given by Edgar M. Bronfman and Cardinal Cassidy. The group also visited Yad Vashem where it was addressed by Dr. Josef Burg, chairman of its International Council, on " The Shoah in National and Religious Perspective ". A delegation from the ILC was received by Chief Rabbi Israel Lau at the Chief Rabbinate.

The ILC visited the Bible Lands Museum in Je­rusalem for a session under the auspices of the Israel Jewish Committee for interreligious Relations [IJCIR] and the Interreligious Coordinating Commit­tee in Israel. Rabbi David Rosen of the Anti-Defama­tion League and Rev. Thomas Stransky, CSP, Rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, addressed the state of interreligious relations in Israel.

On the last day, the group travelled to Galilee to Kibbutz Lavi, where Prof. Menachem Rosner spoke on " Family Life in the Kibbutz ". They concluded with a visit to Nazareth where they met with Catholic families.

Cardinal Cassidy summarized the meeting when he quoted Pope John Paul II's saying that through dialogue "we can become blessings to one another, not forgetting the past but looking to a future of cooperation".

Jerusalem, Israel May 26 1994 16 Sivan 5754

 

ADDRESS OF EDWARD IDRIS CARDINAL CASSIDY, PRESIDENT OF CRRJ

May 23, 1994

 

"How I rejoiced when the said to me

Let us go to the house of Jahweh!

And now our feet are standing

in your gateways, Jerusalem".

"Since all are my brothers and friends,

 I say, Peace be with you!

Since Jahweh our God lives here,

 I pray for your happiness".

 

These verses (1-2 and 8-9) from psalm 122 express my deepest sentiments as we gather here in Jerusalem for this meeting of the International Liai­son Committee, which represents the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Rela­tions with the Jews.

How I rejoice to be here with you, in Jerusalem, the city that is so dear to each one of us present this evening. Now our feet are standing in your gateways, Jerusalem, and we are truly grateful.

We are truly grateful that we are able to come together once again, that we have been able to come together here in Jerusalem and above all that we come together in such an atmosphere of understan­ding and cooperation. I greet you all in the words of the psalm:

" Since all are my brothers and friends

I say Peace be with you — Shalom! »

When we met in Prague in September 1990, we were able to speak of a new spirit in our relations, a spirit "which emphasizes cooperation, mutual under­standing and reconciliation; good will and common goals, to replace the past spirit of suspicion and resentment and distrust ". It is in that new spirit that we are gathered in Jerusalem in May 1994. I would go further and say that it is because of this new spirit that it has been possible for us to come together here in this holy city for our 1994 ILC meeting.

In Prague, and then again in Baltimore 1992, we sought to give a new direction to Jewish-Catholic relations. We were well aware of our obligation to history and to the challenges which still face us in healing the deep wounds of the past. We were not so foolish as to neglect the danger of new possibilities of antisemitism. We Catholic members of the ILC were conscious of the sins that had been committed in the name of religion against the Jewish people.

At the same time, we recognised the need to go beyond a mere peaceful co-existence, which is always dangerously fragile, especially in times of crisis, to build something more solid. And so at Prague we declared:

" After two millennia of estrangement and hostility, we have a sacred duty as Catholics and Jews to strive to create a genuine culture of mutuai esteem and reciprocal caring".

Prague challenged us to look forward and to work together, not only in order to better our own relations, but so as to contribute to the well-being of this world in which we live and to which we have a parti­cular responsibility. " This new spirit ", the Prague Statement said, " would manifest itself in the work that the two faith communities could do together to respond to the needs of today's world [...], the esta­blishment of human rights, freedom, and dignity where they are lacking or imperilled, and responsible stewardship of the environment ".

The Baltimore Statement expressed the same agenda, emphasizing our common duty to build together a new world:

" This would be a world in which the problems which have plagued the past will be considered to be abnormal rather than normal, in which differences are addressed in quiet and construc­tive dialogue rather than fractious accusations, in which there is an ever-expanding basis for hope, despite the evil that threatens our ancient faiths ".

This then is the new spirit in which we gather together again now. And the agenda we have before us for this Jerusalem 1994 meeting of the ILC is intended to carry forward what took place at the Prague and Baltimore meetings. The task we entru­sted to our Steering Committee in Baltimore was to become " a more effective instrument to respond to and, indeed, anticipate a variety of challenges ". This committee has therefore proposed that our discus­sioni centre on the Family and Ecology, certainly two of the challenges in todays's world to which both our communities are called to respond.

This meeting here in Jerusalem is, I believe, of great importance. Our open and frank discussion will show us to what extent we can respond together to challenges such as these. I do not think that anyone here would deny that the family as we have known it and as it has been presented to us in the Sacred Scriptures is under threat. The fact that the United Nations has made this the Year of the Family is a clear sign of the danger posed to the family. We are also well aware of threats to the future of crea­tion by the misuse and abuse of the gifts which the good God has placed at our disposal. We read in Genesis:

" God saw everything that he had made,

and indeed, it was very good" (Gen 1:31).

It is surely our duty to do all we can to make sure that God's work remains very good indeed.

The question then that we must ask ourselves is: what can we, Jews and Catholics, say and do together, in response to these challenges. Our Inter­national Liaison Committee is not a piace for theolo­gical dialogue. That is quite clear and should remain so!

At the same time, we are not here as representa­tives of secular societies or debating clubs. Both in Prague and Baltimore, we saw ourselves as repre­senting faith communities. It is on the basis of our separate identities, but frequent common vision as religious communities, that I believe we can and should be able to respond together to some of the needs, and evils, of the world in which we live together. As Christians and Jews we are not stran­gers to each other.

Pope John Paul II in the Audience which he gave to some Jewish leaders in February 1985, said:

" There is, above all, love between us: that kind of love which is for both of us a fundamental injunction of our religious traditions ".

I hope that you will bear with me if I seek to develop this point a little further. I do so by quoting again from a speech by Pope John Paul II to the Young Leadership Section of the International Coun­cil of Christians and Jews on 2nd July 1993, in which this idea of a common spiritual heritage on which to base a common action in certain social questions is developed:

" Our common spiritual patrimony spoken of by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate, n. 4) includes two fundamental principles which should guide your activities. The first is the knowledge that the order accor­ding to which God created the world and its inhabitants is the sure and secure basis for peace among individuals and nations. The law of the Lord of Hosts is the law of Peace (cf. Ps 37:37), and it is through obedience to the Lord's will that mankind will achieve that harmony which all peoples long for. The second principle is the conviction that the ultimate source of vio­lence is the corruption of the human heart. It follows that the way to achieve lasting victory over discord is through a change of heart (cf. Jer 32:39), through moral conversion. These truths, preached by the Prophets of old and proclaimed in the Church and in the Synagogue, are the heritage entrusted to you young people by your forebears. They are the wisdom which you can offer to the world through your united efforts ".

And he added:

 " Together you are going up to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, a symbol of coming together, of union and of universal peace for the human family ".

I offer these words to you for your reflection. There is no attempt in our meetings to impose on each other a single way of thinking or acting. We meet to reflect together, so that by common under­standing and agreement, we can seek to carry out the mandate that we gave to ourselves in Prague, when we declared:

" Catholic-Jewish dialogue can become a sign of hope and inspiration to other religions, races, and ethnic groups to turn away from contempt, toward realizing authentic human fraternity [...]; the new spirit of friendship and caring for one another may be the most important symbol that we have to offer our troubled world".

I like to think that Pope John Paul II had this state­ment in mind when he sent a message to the people of his native land, Poland, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (L'Osser­vatore Romano, 17th April 1993). I am sure that you will see the similarities, and I quote:

" As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham we are called to be a blessing for the world (cf. Gen 12:2 ff.). This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to be first a blessing to one another ".

Just to be bere together this evening in this Holy Land, in this Holy City is a blessing for each and everyone of us. If we can speak together on the issues that make up our agenda, we shall extend that bless­ing to others, to the world.

I began this address by stating that the direction of our relations has over the past four years changed, and that from looking backwards we want now to go forward together. This does not mean that we forget the past! As Pope John Paul II reminded the people of Poland in the message I have just quoted:

"We do remember, and we need to remember, but we need to remember with renewed trust in God and in his all-healing blessing".

Simply remembering is unfortunately not enough. In our own day there are many new manifes­tations of antisemitism, xenophobia and racial hatred. They were the seeds of those unspeakable crimes of the Shoah. We cannot allow such a tragedy to happen ever again.

I shall therefore conclude with the words addressed by Pope John Paul II to those who were present at the Concert held in the Vatican on 7th April last, to commemorate the Shoah:

" In the face of the perils which threaten the sons and daughters of this generation, Chris­tians and Jews together have a great deal to offer to a world struggling to distinguish good from evil, a world called by the Creator to defend and protect life, but yet so vulnerable to voices which propagate values that bring only death and destruction [...] As we listen together this evening to the music that will be performed for us, may we all be moved to repeat in our hearts David's Song of Ascents: How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity. This is the hope I express for Jews and Chris­tians everywhere, this hope enlivens my prayer for peace in the Holy Land which is dose to all our hearts " (L'Osservatore Romano, 13h April 1994).

With these same sentiments, I renew my greeting to you all and look forward with pleasure and great hope to the days we shall be together here in Jerusa­lem.

 

A COMMON DECLARATION ON THE FAMILY

Jewish and Christian understandings of the family are based upon the biblical description of the dual creation of the human being — man and woman — in God's image, and on the dual nature of God's covenant with the Patriarchs and Matriarchs — as with Abraham and Sarah together. We affirm the sacred value of stable marriage and the family as intrinsically good. We also stress its value in trans­mitting the religious and moral values from the past to the present and to the future.

The Jewish People and the Catholic Church repre­sent two ancient traditions that have supported and been supported by the family through the centuries. We can, today, make together a solid contribution to the overall discussion of these themes in this Interna­tional Year of the Family.

The family is humanity's most precious resource. Today, it is faced with multiple crises throughout the world. So that families can meet the obligations placed in them and respond to the challenges facing them, they should have the support of society.

The family is far more than a legal, social or eco­nomic unit. For both, Jews and Christians, it is a sta­ble community of love and solidarity based on God's covenant. It is uniquely suited to teaching and hand­ing on the cultural, ethical, social, and spiritual values that are essential for the development and well-being of its members and of society. The rights and obligations of the family in these areas do not come from the State but exist prior to the State and ultimately have their source in God, the Creator. Family and Society have living, organic links. Ideally, they will function to complement each other in furthering the good of humanity and of each Person.

Parents, who Bave life to or have adopted their children, have the primary obligation of bringing them up. They must be the principal educatore of their children. Families have an essential right to exercise their responsibilities regarding the transmis­sion of life and the formation of their children, inclu­ding the right to raise children in accordance with the traditions and values of the family's own religious community, with the necessary instruments and institutions.

Appropriate marriage preparation and parent for­mation programs can and should be developed by each of our religious communities on the national and local levels. These can assist parents to meet their responsibilities to each other and to their child­ren, and guide the children to meet their obligations to their parents. Religious communities need to create a variety of support systems for families, just as many of our respective religious rituals have done so effectively over the centuries.

The family should provide a piace in which diffe­rent generations meet to help each other to grow in human wisdom. It should enable family members to learn to accommodate individuai rights to other requirements of social life within the larger society. Society, for its part, and in particular the State and international organizations, have an obligation to protect the family by political, social, economic and legai measures that reinforce family unity and stabi­lity, so that the family can carry out its specific func­tions.

Society is called upon to support the rights of the family and of family members, especially women and children, the poor and the sick, the very young and the elderly, to physical, social, political and economic security. The rights, duties and opportunities of women both in the home and in the larger society are to be respected and fostered. In affirming the family, we reach out at the same time to other persons such as unmarried persons, single parents, the widowed and the childless, in our societies and in our church­es and synagogues.

In view of the worldwide dimension of social questions today, the role of the family has been extended to involve cooperation for a new sense of international solidarity.

While Jews and Catholics have significant diffe­rences in perspective. we also have a solid ground of shared values upon which to build our common affir­mation of the essential role of the family within society. In turas, these values will only be fully real­ized through concrete applications in differing cultures and societies. We offer this declaration to our own communities and to other religious communities in the hope that it may be of service to them in their efforts to respond to the challenges which the family is facing today.

 

Jerusalem, Israel May 26 1994

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