The Holy See
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Concerning the Re-Organization of the
Centre Chrétien Pontificale d'Etudes Juives,
Pontifical Ratisbonne Institute in Jerusalem


1. Among the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, underlines the bond, both special and unique, which spiritually links the people of the New Testament with the children of Abraham, and stresses the importance of dialogue with the Jews by encouraging it through biblical studies foreseen in preparation for ministry. It states:  "Since Christians and Jews have such a common spiritual heritage, this sacred Council wishes to encourage and further mutual understanding and appreciation. This can be obtained, especially, by way of biblical and theological enquiry and through friendly discussions" (n. 4).

Taking into account all that has been done in this area from the time of the Council to the present and after a thorough analysis of the current situation, the Congregation for Catholic Education in conjunction with the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, have examined various ways to develop and to give greater consistency to this important commitment; they, therefore, sign this declaration, which has as its sole aim the augmentation of the religious dialogue and the enhancement of the academic and scientific status of Judeo-Christian studies.

2. Already for several years, there has been a program of Jewish Studies at the Pontifical Ratisbonne Institute in Jerusalem. There, various Catholic academic institutions throughout the world have generously collaborated with the Jewish academic institutions centered in Jerusalem. At the present time, it has been considered opportune to create conditions more suitable for allowing these initiatives to enjoy greater stability and visibility, as well as securing qualified intellectual standards so that those enrolled in the program may attain an appropriate academic degree.

After a wide-ranging consultation, the Commission responsible for assuring the future of the academic and educational project with qualified faculty, appropriate student recruitment, administrative and managerial structure and financial resources, has found that serious difficulties in various areas would be insuperable if the program were to remain as an independent institute at the current facility in Jerusalem. Beyond serious academic concerns, severe, intractable and increasing financial problems of several years standing necessitate a change of venue for what should be the Catholic Church's premier program in Jewish Studies, where it can enjoy more appropriate quality and financial security. After a careful evaluation, therefore, the Commission has decided to continue the original purpose of the Ratisbonne project and to strengthen the program by transferring it into the newly re-organized "Cardinal Bea Center for Jewish Studies" of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

3. The "Cardinal Bea Center for Jewish Studies" cultivates solid and recognized intellectual activity and has been engaged in research in the field of Jewish Studies since 1979. And, through the foundation of several special chairs in the context of various agreements of academic cooperation with important Jewish universities and institutes, among them being Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the "Philip and Muriel Barman Center for Jewish Studies" at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA (USA). Recently, the Center has been further enhanced with the acquisition of the Library of the International Service of Judeo-Christian Documentation (S.I.D.I.C.) in Rome.

4. Considering the wealth of knowledge acquired in the more than twenty years experience of study and research in the field, the decision to entrust the program, which until now developed at the Pontifical Ratisbonne Institute, to the Cardinal Bea Center for Jewish Studies offers numerous advantages. The most significant are listed:  solid institutional security; greater visibility of the Church's commitment in the field of Jewish Studies; the placement of these studies in the context of a prestigious university with a strong international character; providing the students with a more integrated knowledge and understanding of the Jewish religion, culture and history; the intellectual collaboration between Jewish and Christian specialists in the study of religion, culture, and history; the possibility to confer the relative academic degrees and to interact with other academic institutions.

5. With this aim, the newly reorganized and strengthened "Cardinal Bea Center for Jewish Studies" is entrusted to the Pontifical Gregorian University's recently founded Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture, which also includes programs for the study of Islam and of Eastern Religions.

In addition to the courses and seminars offered at the Pontifical Gregorian University, the new Cardinal Bea Center will support academic initiatives in Jerusalem, particularly through the already existing agreement on academic cooperation with Hebrew University and through interaction with other institutions there. This context also provides for a more intensive exchange between professors and student researchers, while providing continuity with the project formerly located at the Ratisbonne facility.

The administration of the "Cardinal Bea Center for Jewish Studies" will be sustained by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and a person will be appointed to oversee the development of academic activities in Jerusalem.

Given in Rome, at the offices of the Congregation for Catholic Education, on the fourteenth day of November in the year 2002.

Congregation for Catholic Education

Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism