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SIDIC Periodical XXXIV - 2001/2
A Blessing To One Another. To Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy In Gratitude. (Pages 18-25)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French




The 17th meeting of the International Catholic Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) was held in New York City, May 1-3, 2001. The four major documents from the meeting follow: 1. The main portions of the ILC Joint Communiqué; 2. Remarks by Walter Cardinal Kasper on Dominus Iesus; 3. The ILC Joint Declaration: Protecting Religious Freedom and Holy Sites; 4. The ILC Joint Recommendation: On Education in Catholic and Jewish Seminaries and Schools of Theology.

1. ILC - Joint Communiqué

Following the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Catholic Church and international groups representing the Jewish People both in Israel and in the Diaspora determined to establish together a mechanism to follow through on the extraordinary moment in history represented by the Council’s Declaration, Nostra Aetate (In Our Time). After nearly two millennia of polemical relations, a window was opened to allow dialogue to replace the disputations of the past. The result was the establishment of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) between the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligius Consultations (IJCIC). IJCIC is comprised of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Relations, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the United Synagogue of America, and the World Jewish Congress. The 17th meeting occurred May 1-3, 2001in New York City.

In the years following the 16th meeting (which was held in Vatican City in March of 1998) tensions arose between the Holy See’s Commission and IJCIC. The Catholic side was frustrated by the lack of theological dialogue. The Jewish side responded that it wanted to deepen the dialogue in a way Jews and Catholics could learn about each other and project our communities accurately without risking theological disputations.

We affirm that our partnership is secure and that the vital work of the ILC continues and promises to flourish, now and in the years ahead. As official representatives of our organized religious communities, we are determined to engage our leadership and laity in dialogue and cooperation. Together, we will work to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism whenever they occur. In the Spring of 2000, IJCIC and the Holy See agreed to pursue a broader dialogue. Now, as we concluded our meetings in New York we affirm that we have accomplished our goal. We engaged in probative dialogue that sharpened greatly our understanding of the differences and similarities of our religious faiths.

The main theme of our gathering, Repentance and Reconciliation, was prompted by a desire to review the past eleven years, since Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy’s remarkable statement made in Prague in 1990 on Teshuva. This was a powerful declaration on the need for remorse and contrition and served as the basis for a groundbreaking call by the ILC for Catholic renunciation of anti-Semitism as “a sin against God and humanity.” This theme was subsequently given worldwide attention by Pope John Paul II. Much has occurred since that meeting in Prague: the diplomatic normalization in 1994 between the Holy See and the State of Israel, the publication of We Remember in 1998, the visit of Pope John Paul II to Israel in 2000, and the review by Catholic and Jewish scholars of published Vatican archival material on events during World War II in 2000. Yet, there were also moments of tension, including the canonization of Edith Stein, the beatification of Pius IX and the possible beatification of Pius XII, and the publication of Dominus Iesus. These issues produced intensive discussion.

[…] IJCIC’s Program Chair, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor gave a brief review of the subject area of our meeting and introduced Cardinal Walter Kasper, the recently appointed President of the Holy See’s Commission, and Seymour D. Reich, the Chairman of IJCIC. Cardinal Kasper welcomed all and in his statement said, “I am committed to work together with you for the reconciliation of our two faith communities, on the basis of a total mutual respect for our respective traditions and convictions. This mutual respect has, unfortunately, often been lacking in the past. Teshuva, therefore, is an indispensable step on our path. For us Catholics, Pope John Paul II has set the example. […] At this point in the history of our relations, our commission indeed is convinced of the need for a dialogue which goes beyond the discussion of problems, and enters into the very heart of what constitutes our identities as faith communities, in order to allow us to proceed – on that basis – along the path of common action in today’s society.” He concluded: “I believe that the discovery, or the re-discovery of this covenantal link between both our religious traditions, is basically the agenda for our dialogue. As one of my predecessors, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, once put it, ‘we are linked for good.’”

Mr. Reich stated that “the quite remarkable aspect of Catholic-Jewish partnership is that despite differences and disagreements, fundamental relationships have undergone a sea change, converting the hatred and distrust of centuries into a positive dialogue between two faiths linked by historical threads.” He noted the negative impact of the beatification of Pope Pius IX on Catholic-Jewish relations, especially in Italy because of the Edguardo Mortara affair, in which a Jewish child was forcibly taken from his parents to be raised as a Catholic within the Vatican. The ILC affirms that this episode exemplifies the historical problem which Nostra Aetate and subsequent statements of the Holy See have solved “in our time”.

[…] Cardinal Cassidy, reflecting on the past eleven years, stated: “Dialogue is the exchange of gifts.” He suggested that there is still much to do in our dialogue; we must “press forward…there will be no turning back.” But, he did suggest that, if not vigilant, there could be a lessening of interest in our dialogue. Cardinal Cassidy referred to the 1990 ILC meeting in Prague as a “milestone that gave new life to the relationship and led to important work in the fields of education and formation. Several old problems,” he said, “were subsequently solved and new impetus was given to Catholic-Jewish relations when the Holy See and Israel entered into formal diplomatic relations. Despite new questions that caused some tension, progress continued to be made and the Commission published in 1998 a Catholic document on the Holocaust, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. The period came to a resounding climax with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Israel in March, 2000.” Introducing the main theme, Repentance and Reconciliation, Rabbi Klenicki argued that each of our communities needs to overcome its own form of triumphalism. “Christianity must overcome theological triumphalism: the conviction that it is the only way to salvation and has to be imposed on everyone. On our side, Judaism needs to overcome the triumphalism of pain and memories. We are obligated to respond to history with new affirmations of God’s covenant and with new dimensions of faith in humanity despite human evil’s potential.” He pointed to the Jewish statement, Dabru Emet (To Speak Truth), signed last year by some 200 American rabbis and scholars, as an example of this Jewish response to Christian outreach for reconciliation.

We then turned to the substantive papers suggested by the main theme. […] Fr. Lawrence Frizzell of the Institute of Judaeo Christian Studies at Seton Hall University reminded us that “Pope John Paul II called Catholics ‘to progress by means of daily conversion of heart, or teshuva in repentance, fasting and works of mercy’ (Address to Jewish Leaders in Budapest, Aug. 18, 1991)” The experience of Christian repentance and return to God’s plan for humanity is rooted in the Jerusalem Temple liturgy, especially for the Day of Atonement. “In faith, Christians are challenged to become instruments or ambassadors of reconciliation among human beings and between people and God. How can Christians and Jews become a blessing to each other so that they can become a blessing to the world?” Dr. Michael Signer of the University of Notre Dame offered his perspective on Darke Shalom (the Paths of Peace). There is much to be learned about a society from its rituals of greeting. When we greet someone we receive them into our presence and take a risk that we will be received. The Jewish greeting Shalom indicates that we bring the other into our presence, wishing them a sense of well-being and wholeness. In the rabbinic tradition the idea of peace is part of the nature of God. It is a unique gift of divine mercy and grace. Equally true is the fact that Jews are commanded to fill their daily lives with the pursuit of peace by establishing a sound network of peace and harmony.

One of the difficult issues addressed by this 17th ILC meeting was the publication of Dominus Iesus. “Dominus Iesus,” Cardinal Kasper said, “is an intra-Catholic document about interreligious dialogue addressed to Catholic theologians concerning problems with relativism, syncretism, universalism and indifferentism. It does not enter into the Jewish-Catholic dialogue. It must be noted first that the relationship between the church and the Jewish people is unique. Second, Dominus Iesus does not call into question the salvation of Jews. Third, the Jewish covenant has not been revoked and remains salvifically effective for Jews. Fourth, Dominus Iesus must be understood properly within the context of Nostra Aetate, papal encyclicals and other official documents of the Church regarding Judaism. Fifth, there is no missionary activity on the part of the church directed toward converting the Jews. Dominus Iesus is not the end of our dialogue. It is a challenge for our dialogue.”

Professor David Berger, addressing the issue of Dominus Iesus, noted the concerns of some in the Jewish community who hold a belief that it asserted that followers of other religions are in a gravely deficient situation with respect to salvation, that interreligious dialogue is part of the Church’s ‘mission’ to the nations, and that equality in dialogue refers to the dignity of the participants but not doctrinal content. He argued that the contention that Jews are excluded from these controversial assertions appears inconsistent with the language of both the declaration itself and other writings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for Faith, which issued the declaration. Berger argued further, however, that there are no legitimate grounds for Jewish objections to Dominus Iesus’ passages about salvation and equality. To proffer such objections is to invite reciprocal demands for revisions of Jewish theology and to transform dialogue into an instrument of religious intimidation. He suggested, on the other hand, the passage about mission creates a major problem for dialogue, especially on doctrinal issues, and vindicates the concerns of Orthodox Jews who have largely avoided such discussions. Discussion then ensued. Fr. John Pawlikowski, OSM, stated that the document does not speak about post-biblical Judaism. Cardinal Kasper noted that the document does not fully reflect the doctrine of the Catholic Church or other relevant Papal statements concerning relations with the Jewish faith. Cardinal Cassidy noted that Dominus Iesus was not the final word on the subject.

The evening of May 1 was a most profound experience of fellowship as the ILC honored Cardinals Cassidy and the late John J. O’Connor; Rabbis Mordecai Waxman, Leon Klenicki and A. James Rudin; Dr. Gerhart Riegner, Sr. Rose Thering, OP, and Msgr. George G. Higgins for their example, witness and love for the Catholic-Jewish dialogue. […]

[…] Fr. James Loughran, SA, the newly-appointed Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, presented the Catholic tradition on repentance as it is practiced on a pastoral level through the sacrament of penance and the liturgical life of the Church. His main theme was metanoia, the complete ‘turning around’ of the heart away from sin and towards God. The motivation for this conversion of the heart is love, not fear of condemnation. The discussion that followed further clarified the distinction in Catholic theology between the Church instituted by Christ being sinless and the human assembly of the Church being sinful. Professor David Novak of the University of Toronto presented a paper on The Evolution of Jewish Attitudes towards Non-Jews. He said that the Torah ordains that Jews must respect those of a different religion who recognize God as the Creator and do not worship idols. These people must be respected for Darke Shalom (the Paths of Peace) as long as they do not threaten Jews or Judaism.

Fr. Gerald P. Fogarty of the University of Virginia and Dr. Michael R. Marrus of the University of Toronto, two members of the panel of scholars charged by the Holy See and IJCIC (previously authorized at the 1998 ILC meeting in Rome) to review the published Vatican documents relating to the WW II period, discussed their preliminary report. Drawing upon their reading of the eleven volumes of the Acts and Documents of the Holy See during World War II, the scholars have submitted a preliminary evaluation of the collection and expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the editors at objectivity. They reported that the team concluded that it makes a valuable contribution to the historical record. Along with the evaluation, the scholars submitted forty-seven specific questions illustrating the need to continue an examination of this complex and difficult subject. While differing among themselves, as scholars regularly do, they agree that the question of the role of the papacy during the war remains unresolved. While the opening of the Vatican archives will not definitely put this matter to rest, opening the archives will help to remove the aura of suspicion and will contribute to a more mature level of understanding. The ILC takes note of the importance of this issue to both of our communities, and encourages a discourse on the subject that is characterized by mutual respect, and appreciation for legitimately held points of view. Discussion ensued. Fr. Pawlikowski said that while the issue is not yet settled, the reference to the ‘silence’ of Pius XII is an unfair characterization and should be removed from the debate. Dean Marrus stated that we need a positive response to the interim report and that the “ball is in the Vatican’s court.” He further said that we need movement on the issue of the archives and “access to the archives would be salutary.” […]

[…] Dr. Eugene Fisher, of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, surveyed the vast array of Episcopal statements, educational programs, improvements in teaching materials, academic institutions of Jewish and Christian studies attached to Catholic Universities, dialogues and joint social action on all levels that have advanced the prophetic vision of Nostra Aetate and embedded its spirit deeply and inextricably into the life of the Catholic Church worldwide. “The theological challenge issued by the Second Vatican Council and so carefully built upon by subsequent statements,” he said, “has become an edifice of doctrinal stone that will last the centuries.” Seymour Reich spoke about the remarkable changes that have taken place in the course of our dialogue. He made important suggestions about education in Jewish schools that have been incorporated into the aforementioned resolution on Education in Catholic and Jewish Seminaries. He also called to the attention of Church leaders the need to understand that for virtually all Jews, the survival and welfare of the State of Israel is a ‘litmus test’ that reflects the self-image and sense of survival of a people. It is important, he said, for Catholics to comprehend the emotional ties of the Jewish community to the Jewish State and to recognize that tenor and tone are almost as important as substance in matters affecting that nation.

During a discussion concerning on-going developments several reports were offered. For the first time, the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy see, Neville Lamdan, together with the Minister for Interreligious Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Moshe Fox, took part in the meeting as observers. Ambassador Lamdan reported on the efforts being made by his embassy together with the Holy See to advance Catholic-Jewish relations, such as educational work at Pontifical Universities, ‘people to people’ experiences such as pilgrimages, student exchanges, international developmental cooperation, cultural events. Rabbi Ron Kronish of Israel spoke about projects in Israel and the Palestinian Authority that bring together Jews, Christians and Muslims. Professor Georges Schneck of Brussels spoke about ongoing work in his country and Rabbi Henry Sobel of Brazil shared experiences from Latin America. With regard to Jedwabne, a WW II massacre of Jews by Poles, Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poland made three points. “First, I must stress Polish responsibility in the crime committed in Jedwabne. I do not justify the Polish conduct at all. Second, during wartime many people looked for a scapegoat to explain their own misfortunes. Too many found it in the stereotype that the Jews collaborated with the Communist regime. We know that the Jews were used and abused – as were other minorities – by the Soviets, as were the Poles by the Germans. The demonization of the Jews, and the traditional anti-Semitism grounded on Christian stereotypes, also influenced the anti-Jewish pogrom. Third, what we Poles want is to acknowledge our own sin and to repent.”

[…] Final reflections were offered by Cardinal Edward Cassidy and Seymour Reich. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York hosted the ILC at his home on May 3. His kindness and warm welcome to us was deeply appreciated.

2. ILC - DOMINUS IESUS: Remarks by Walter Cardinal Kasper

1. The Declaration Dominus Iesus, published in September 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has sparked off various reactions by different people and communities, also by Jews. Obviously, there have been some misunderstandings. The highly technical language of this document for the instruction of Catholic theologians – a document that is perhaps a little too densely written – raised misunderstandings on the very meaning and intention of the text among people who are not very familiar with Catholic theological ‘jargon’ and with the rules of its correct interpretation. Many of these reactions appear to be based on information which obviously uninformed secular mass-media have thrown into the arena of public opinion. On the other hand, some substantial difficulty which theologically informed Jews might have had with the document would be more understandable, since it expresses matters – such as the interpretation of Jesus as the Son of God – on which Jews and Christians have parted ways many centuries ago. These differences deserve mutual respect. But, at the same time, they evoke painful memories of the past. This is why the document was often painful for Jews. It was not the intention to hurt or offend. But it did, and for this I can only express my profound regret. My friends’ pains are also my pains.

2. But what was and what is the very problem? The problem raised by this text is linked with the intention of the document. The Declaration mainly deals with Interreligious Dialogue. But it is not itself in a dialogue either with Hindus, nor Moslems, nor Jews. It argues against some newer relativistic and, to some degree, syncretistic theories among Christian theologians, theories spread in India and in the western so-called postmodern world as well, which advocate a pluralistic vision of religion and classify both Jewish and Christian religion under the category of ‘world religions’. It argues against theories that deny the specific identity of Jewish and Christian religion, and do not take into account the distinction between faith as answer to God’s revelation and belief as human search for God and human religious wisdom. Thus, the Declaration defends the specific revelation character of the Hebrew Bible too, which we Christians call the Old Testament, against theories claiming, for example, that the Holy Books of Hinduism are the Old Testament for Hindus.

But this gave rise to misunderstandings. Some Jewish readers tend to think that the Church’s attitude towards Jews and Judaism is a sub-category of its attitude towards world religions in general. Yet, such a presumption is a mistake, and so is the presumption that the document represents “a backward step in a concerted attempt to overturn the [in this case Catholic-Jewish] dialogue of recent decades”. I am quoting here a comment made by a Jewish scholar. This misunderstanding can be avoided if the Declaration is read and interpreted – as any magisterial document should be – in the larger context of all other official documents and declarations, which are by no means cancelled, revoked or nullified by this document.

Read in this wider context, we must say that, with regard to the above-mentioned presumption, Catholic-Jewish relations are not a subset of interreligious relations in general, neither in theory nor in practice. In practice: remember that our Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews is not attached to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, but to the Pontifical Council which is responsible for the promotion of the ecumenical dialogue. In theory: remember that Judaism, in the mind of the Church, is unique among the world’s religions because, as Nostra Aetate states, it is “the root of that good olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles” (cf. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, 11:17-24). Or, as Pope John Paul II has put it on more than one occasion: “our two religious communities are connected and closely related at the very level of their religious identities” (Addresses: Mar. 12, 1973; Mar. 6, 1982); and during his historic visit to the synagogue of Rome, April 13, 1986: “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that your are our elder brothers.”

On March 6, 1982, the Pope referred to “the faith and religious life of the Jewish people as they are professed and practiced still today”. In fact, also the Notes on the correct way to present the Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in the Roman Catholic church, published by our Commission on June 24, 1985, are concerned that Judaism is not presented in Catholic teaching as being merely a historical and archeological reality. It refers to “the permanent reality of the Jewish people” – “the people of God of the Old Covenant, which has never been revoked” (John Paul II, Nov. 17, 1980, Mainz) – as a “living reality closely related to the Church.” In fact the Notes remind us, Catholics, that “Abraham is truly the father of our faith (cf. Rm 4:11-12; Roman Canon: patriarchae nostri Abrahae)” And it is said: “Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea” (1 Co 10:1). Indeed, Dominus Iesus, too, specifically acknowledges the divine revelation in the Hebrew Bible, in contrast to the sacred books of other religions. Against some relativistic theories that subordinate both Jewish and Christian religion in the category of world religions, this document, referring to the Second Vatican Council, states: “The Church’s tradition, however, reserves the designation of inspired texts to the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, since these are inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

Thus the document Dominus Iesus does not affect Catholic-Jewish relations in a negative way. Because of its purpose, it does not deal with the question of the theology of Catholic-Jewish relations, proclaimed by Nostra Aetate, and of subsequent Church teaching. What the document tries to ‘correct’ is another category, namely the attempts by some Christian theologians to find a kind of ‘universal theology’ of interreligious relations which, in some cases, has led to indifferentism, relativism and syncretism. Against such theories we, as Jews and Christians, are on the same side, sitting in the same boat; we have to fight, to argue and to bear witness together. Our common self-understanding is at stake. I think that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has clarified these questions in his article, The Heritage of Abraham, in L’Osservatore Romano, Dec. 29, 2000, where he writes: “It is evident that dialogue of us Christians with the Jews stands on a different level with regard to the dialogue with other religions. The faith witnessed in the Bible of the Jews, the Old Testament of Christians, is for us not a different religion but the foundation of our faith.” I think this is a clear statement, to which I have nothing to add.

3. Besides the already mentioned plain problem raised by Dominus Iesus, there are other questions that I cannot deal with in this paper, since they would need a much more thorough discussion. These questions have already been the object of our dialogue and should be on the agenda also in the future. In this context I can only mention them, without claiming to solve them. Neither has Dominus Iesus the intention to enter these issues: they are beyond its intra-theological and intra-catholic intention.

One of these questions is how to relate the covenant with the Jewish people, which according to St. Paul is unbroken and not revoked but still in vigor, with what we Christians call the New covenant. As you know, the old theory of substitution is gone since Vatican Council II. For us Christians today the covenant with the Jewish people is a living heritage, a living reality. There cannot be a mere coexistence between the two covenants. Jews and Christians, by their respective identities, are intimately related to each other. It is impossible now to enter the complex problem of how this intimate relatedness should or could be defined. Such a question touches the mystery of Jewish and Christian existence as well, and should be discussed in our further dialogue.

The only thing I wish to say is that the document Dominus Iesus does not state that everybody need to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God. On the contrary, it declares that God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises. This touches the problem of mission towards Jews, a painful question with regard to forced conversion in the past. Dominus Iesus, as other official documents, raised this question again saying that dialogue is a part of evangelization. This stirred Jewish suspicion. But this is a language problem, since the term evangelization, in official Church documents, cannot be understood in the same way it is commonly interpreted in everyday speech. In strict theological language, evangelization is a very complex and comprehensive term and reality. It implies presence and witness, prayer and liturgy, proclamation and catechesis, dialogue and social work. Now, presence and witness, prayer and liturgy, dialogue and social work, which are all part of evangelization, do not have the goal of increasing the number of Catholics. Thus evangelization, if understood in its proper and theological meaning, does not imply any attempt of proselytism whatsoever.

On the other hand, the term mission, in its proper sense, refers to conversion from false gods and idols to the true and one God, who revealed himself in the salvation history with his elected people. Thus mission, in this strict sense, cannot be used with regard to Jews, who believe in the true and one God. Therefore – and this is characteristic – there is no Catholic missionary organization for Jews. There is dialogue with Jews; no mission in this proper sense towards them.

But what is dialogue? Certainly – as we learned from Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber – it is more than small talk and mere exchange of opinions. It is also different from academic dispute, however important academic dispute may be within dialogue. Dialogue implies personal commitments and witness of one’s own conviction and faith. Dialogue communicates one’s faith and, at the same time, requires profound respect for the conviction and faith of the partner. It respects the difference of the other and brings mutual enrichment.

With this kind of dialogue we Catholics will continue in the future; with this kind of dialogue we can continue after Dominus Iesus. Dominus Iesus is not the end of dialogue, but a challenge to a further and even more intensive dialogue. We need this dialogue for our own identity and for the sake of the world. In today’s world we, Jews and Christians, have a common mission: together we should give an orientation. Together we must be ambassadors of peace and bring about Shalom.


Religious Freedom under Attack
In recent years, interreligious and anti-religious violence has been on the rise. In some places thousands of people have been killed and thousands more left homeless, even made refugees. Assassination of religious leaders and lay workers has become a frequent occurrence. Shrines, monuments and houses of worship have come under attack, been damaged or destroyed. The rights of many hundreds of thousands of believers have been violated. The offenders are occasionally individuals. More often they have been groups, whether mobs, terrorist organizations, or people with authority: police, military personnel or even governments.

We are troubled by assaults on religious freedom wherever they occur. We are all the more disturbed when members of our own religious communities have been the offenders. Assembled for this International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee meeting, we affirm once again before God and the world community our common commitment to the protection of religious freedom and to the security of holy places.

Respect for Holy Places
From the dawn of human consciousness, men and women have experienced the holy in locations that they have designated as sacred. Throughout recorded history, various groups have felt special attachment to places that they considered holy. The sacred texts of the great historical religions include accounts of specific places where individuals or groups experienced significant encounters with God.

Holy places set aside in memory of these encounters with the divine are a part of the character of every religious tradition. The faithful are drawn to them out of reverence for the great events or personalities they commemorate, and as loci for especially fervent prayer. Each of the great religious traditions of humanity has places that it holds to possess special sanctity. Holy places are as much a common feature of the religious traditions of humanity as are sacred time or prayer.

Paradoxically, one of the results of the identification of locations as sacred is that these places can become the focus for the tensions between the members of different religious communities. A place that is considered holy by one group can come to be claimed by adherents of another tradition. As a result, holy places can become the source of conflict as much as of spiritual expression.

Tragically, as religious communities fall into estrangement or antagonism, the holy places of each community often become the target of violence or vengeance instead of veneration and reverence. People act out their contempt and anger through various forms of violation: occupation, desecration, even destruction. So too, when holy sites are used for military purposes, their sacred character is defiled. One group can take physical possession of the holy place of another and eradicate traces of its earlier identity. Objects of veneration can be defaced. Holy places have been reduced to rubble.

As people of faith, we know how important our own holy places are in our religious and communal lives. Each of our communities of faith has also experienced the desecration of spaces sacred to us. We know the intense pain that arises from that experience. It is out of this history that we condemn all violence directed against holy places even by members of our own communities.

Protecting Religious Freedom
Freedom of religion and of conscience, including the rights of religious communities within society, derive from and are rooted in the liberty of persons before God. As Christians and Jews, we find the religious roots of such respect in the dignity of all persons created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gn 1:26). Religious freedom is realized through the exercise of specific rights. Among these are: freedom of worship, liberty in public manifestation of one’s belief and the practice of one’s religion, the freedom of religious communities to organize themselves and conduct their own affairs without interference, the right to show the implications of one’s beliefs for society, the right to hold meetings, and the right to establish educational, charitable, cultural and social organizations in keeping with the religious orientation of one’s own religious tradition.

Protecting religious liberty requires the efforts of many parties. Looking at our own task, we must do more as religious leaders to teach our fellow believers respect for people who belong to other religious traditions. Religious leaders should also take initiatives to foster a climate of respect. They must be ready to speak out against violations of religious liberty committed against people of other religions.

We encourage religious bodies to institute regular programs of interreligious education, dialogue and exchange. When members of other faiths, particularly minority religions, come under attack, we urge people of good will to speak out in defense of the religious liberty and the human rights of the minority, to offer them support and to share with them public signs of solidarity. Religious leaders should never use their declarations for incitement or make shrines and houses of worship havens for hostile political action.

We ask all believers to work amicably across religious lines to resolve religious disputes and to follow the ways of peace together. Complaints about violations of religious liberty, freedom of conscience or the sanctity of holy places should be subject to careful examination and must never be an occasion for recrimination or defamation. Rather we must always strive to establish an atmosphere of openness and fairness in which disputes may be resolved.

Governments and political authorities bear special responsibility for protecting human religious rights. Those responsible for law, order and public security should feel themselves obligated to defend religious minorities and to use available legal remedies against those who commit crimes against religious liberty and the sanctity of holy places. Just as they are prohibited from engaging in anti-religious acts, governments must also be vigilant lest by inaction they effectively tolerate religious hatred or provide immunity for the perpetrators of anti-religious actions.

Armed forces ought to be vigilant in avoiding violent action against religious minorities and attacks against places of worship and holy sites. In the interest of securing religious liberty in times of conflict, armed personnel should be trained to respect the rights of religious minorities and holy sites and held accountable for their actions. When conflicts arise between legitimate defense needs and religious immunity, ways must be found to avoid, or at least minimize the infringement of religious rights.

We stand together as representatives of the Catholic and Jewish communities of faith in calling on men and women of all faiths to honor religious liberty and to treat the holy places of others with respect. We call on all people to reject attacks on religious liberty and violence against holy places as legitimate forms of political expression.

We look forward, prayerfully, to the time when all people shall enjoy the right to lead their religious lives unmolested and in peace. We long for the time when the holy places of all religious traditions will be secure and when all people treat one another’s holy places with respect.


Relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish People have improved significantly in the last half century. The education of future clergy and lay leaders in both our communities is crucial if coming generations are to sustain and further this progress.

In particular, the curricula of Catholic seminaries and schools of theology should reflect the central importance of the church’s new understanding of its relationship to Jews. To that end, we recommend:

• Courses on Bible, patristics, early church history and liturgy should incorporate recent scholarship on Christian origins. Illumining the complex developments by which both the church and rabbinic Judaism emerged from early Judaism will establish a substantial foundation for ameliorating “the painful ignorance of the history and traditions of Judaism of which only negative aspects and often caricature seem to form part of the stock ideas of many Christians” (Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching and Catechesis, #27, 1985). Opportunities for faculty to continue their own learning about Christian-Jewish relations should be available so that their courses will reflect the richness of contemporary scholarship.

• Courses dealing with the biblical, historical and theological aspects of relations between Jews and Christians should be an integral part of the seminary and theologate curriculum, and not merely electives. All who graduate from Catholic seminaries and theology schools should have studied the revolution in Catholic teaching on Jews and Judaism from Nostra Aetate through the prayer of Pope John Paul II at the Western Wall on March 26, 2000.

The Jewish community has yet to undertake a similar effort to promote a basic understanding of Christianity. For historic reasons, many Jews find it difficult to overcome generational memories of antisemitic oppression. Therefore:

• Lay and religious Jewish leaders need to advocate and promote a program of education in their Jewish schools and seminaries – about the history of Catholic-Jewish relations and knowledge of Christianity and its relationship to Judaism. Such knowledge does not mean Jewish acceptance of Christianity’s theological tenets. Encouragement of dialogue between the two faiths does involve recognition, understanding and respect for each other’s beliefs, without having to accept them. It is particularly important that Jewish schools teach about the Second Vatican Council and subsequent documents and attitudinal changes which opened new perspectives and possibilities for both faiths.

Educational institutions in both our communities should make every effort as appropriate to their particular contexts to expose students to living Judaism or Christian communities through guest lecturers, field trips, involvement in local, national and international dialogue groups and conferences. The resources of the Internet should be utilized, especially sites such as www. jcrelations.net and the sites of various efforts for Jewish-Christian understanding.


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