OF THE JOINT COMMISSION
Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with
1. After a preliminary meeting in Jerusalem on June 5th 2002 high ranking delegations of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel met in Villa Cavalletti (Grottaferrata – Roma) from February 23rd to 27th 2003.
The discussions, held in a warm and friendly atmosphere, centered on the subject of how to further peace, harmony and religious values in contemporary societies.
2. We acknowledged that the basis for our ongoing dialogue must be truthfulness and honesty, respecting our different religious identities. We are dialoguing as people of faith having common spiritual roots and patrimony. Dialogue is a value in itself and excludes any intention of converting. Following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church recognises that "God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues" (Nostra Aetate, Nr. 4; cfr. also Romans 11:28-29). We take into account our different traditions and respect each other in our otherness. We feel the call to proclaim testimony to the One God in the world and we are willing to cooperate in fostering common religious values, peace with justice, truth and love.
3. The following topics were agreed upon for discussion and cooperation:
4. The Sanctity of Human Life
4.1. Human life is of unique and highest value in our world. Any attempt to destroy human life must be rejected, and every common effort should be made, in order to promote human rights, solidarity among all human beings, respect for freedom of conscience.
4.2. Our common religious motivation for this central affirmation is based on the biblical statement that the human being is created in the image of the living God, in His likeness (cfr. Genesis 1:26). God is the Holy One and the Creator of human life, and the human being is blessed and obliged by His holiness. Therefore every human life is holy, sacrosanct and inviolable. According to Leviticus 19:2 God’s holiness constitutes an essential imperative for the moral behaviour: "You shall be holy for I am Holy, the Lord your God!"
4.3. To protect human life is an evident ethical consequence of this conviction. Every believer, particularly religious leaders, should cooperate in protecting human life. Any attack against the life of a human being runs contrary to the will of God, is a desecration of God’s Name, directly opposed to the teaching of the prophets. Taking any human life, including one’s own, even in the name of God, is sacrilegious.
As was emphasized time and again by Pope John Paul II in his message for the World Day of Peace 2002, no religious leader can condone terrorism everywhere in the world. It is a profanation of religion to declare oneself a terrorist in the name of God, to do violence to others in his name. Terrorist violence everywhere in the world is a contradiction of faith in God, the Creator of man, who cares for man and loves him.
4.4. As religious leaders of faith communities we have an extraordinary responsibility for the education of our communities and particularly the younger generation in respect for holiness of human life. We should not admit any killing in the name of God who commands "You shall not kill" (Exodus 20: 13; Deuteronomy 5:17), avoiding fanatical or violent abuse of religion, as Jewish, Christian and Moslem leaders declared in the common statement of Alexandria (January 2002). We all should unite our energies towards the construction of a better world for life, brotherhood, justice, peace and love among all.
4.5. There are cultural and educational implications regarding our cooperation in this field. All educators should strengthen their efforts in devising programmes to educate the young in respect for the highest value of human life. Against the present trend of violence and death in our societies, we should foster our cooperation with believers of all religions and all people of good will in promoting a "culture of life".
5. Family Values
5.1. The institution of the family stems from the will of the Almighty who created human being in the image of God; "male and female He created them" (Genesis 1: 27). Marriage in a religious perspective has a great value because God blessed this union and sanctified it.
5.2 Family and home unity provides a warm and protecting surrounding that nurtures children and ensures their proper education, in keeping with tradition and beliefs. The family unit is the basis for a wholesome society.
5.3 Doubtless the electronic and media revolution has brought about positive changes in society. However, at the same time too often, a negative influence on behaviour of society has developed. Adults and the young alike are exposed to distorted and perverted aspects of life, such as violence and pornography. As religious leaders we are challenged by these destructive developments.
5.4 More than ever, we are obliged to educate at home and in the school towards family values, following our rich religious traditions. Parents should devote much more time to show their love to their children and guide them towards positive attitudes. Among other important family values we should stress love, unselfishness, care for life and mutual responsibility for children and parents (cfr. Exodus 20: 12; Deuteronomy 5: 16). In such perspective, we cannot agree to alternative models of couples’ union and of the family.
6. Concluding Biblical Quotation
"For I have chosen him [Abraham], so that he will direct his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him" (Genesis 18: 19).
Grottaferrata – Roma (Villa Cavalletti),