Twenty Years of Jewish-Catholic Relations

Twenty Years of Jewish-Catholic Relations

Twenty Years of Jewish-Catholic Relations

Twenty Years of Jewish-Catholic Relations

Excerpt

On October 28, 1965, 2,221 Catholic bishops, assembled from every corner of the earth, added their signatures to that of "Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church," officially promulgating the shortest and most controversial of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. That document was Nostra Aetate ("In Our Time"), the Council's Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.

The controversy had surrounded only fifteen Latin sentences of text, the declaration's fourth section dealing with Jews and Judaism. As late as the weekend before the vote, newspapers were speculating that the section on the Jews would be reduced to a single sentence, and that the whole of the declaration would be shelved. In the event, the bishops of the Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of the fifteen sentences that had seen so much clarification and debate since the meeting between Pope John XXIII and the French Jewish scholar Jules Isaac had occasioned in the Pope's mind the thought that "the Council ought to be occupied with the Jewish question and antisemitism. " By their approval, however, the Council Fathers, in the words of Fr. Thomas Stransky who was then on the staff of Cardinal Bea, "committed the Roman Catholic Church to an irrevocable act, a heshbon ha-nefesh—a reconsideration of soul" (Origins, June 20, 1985).

This volume is about that commitment made by the Church twenty years ago, about what it meant in the context of the nineteen hundred years of often tragic Christian-Jewish relations leading up to it, about what has happened since, and about what it means for us today. Even more than celebrating and analyzing what has been done, however, the essays in this volume aim to inform us on what needs to be done to preserve and move forward what the Council only began—and that, as the reader will soon perceive, is a great deal.

Pope John Paul II, in a meeting with leaders of the American Jewish Committee held in Rome on February 15, 1985, called on Catholics to accept Nos tra Aetate . . .

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