In 50 years of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, opposition has given way to a 'deep friendship'
In 50 years, since the Second Vatican Council's Nostra Aetate changed the Catholic vision of Judaism, relations have gone "from opposition to a fruitful collaboration, from the potential for conflict to an efficient management of conflicts, from a coexistence marked by tensions to a solid and fruitful coexistence ", a" deep friendship ".
Moreover the Jewish roots of Christianity help us clarify the figure of the jew Jesus, who "can only be understood in the Jewish context of his time and it was stated that the relations between Catholics and Jews are part of a" close and unavoidable family relationship. "
In this framework, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has prepared a document, which was presented today in the Vatican, titled "The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Reflections on theological issues pertaining to Catholic-Jewish relations". "It is - said Card. Kurt Koch, President of the Commission - an explicitly theological document, which intends to summarize and clarify the issues that have surfaced in recent decades in Catholic-Jewish dialogue". The document, he said, is not magisterial, and is written from the Catholic point of view, even if in the course of its elaboration several Jewish scholars were consulted.
In the belief that dialogue with Judaism cannot be in any way compared to dialogue with other religions, fundamental theological issues are addressed, such as the importance of revelation, the relationship between the Old and the New Covenant, the relationship between the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ and the belief that God's covenant with Israel was never revoked, the evangelizing work of the Church in reference to Judaism.
And, in addition to confirming the no to all forms of anti-Semitism, it reaffirms the "great importance" of the Christian communities in the State of Israel, "because there, unlike anywhere else in the world, a Christian minority is faced with a Jewish majority ". It also augurs for a common commitment" to the promotion of justice, peace and safeguarding of creation "and the intensification of collaboration" for the poor, the weak, the marginalized, to become, together, a blessing for the world. "
Addressing the more strictly theological subject matter, Card. Koch said that "Jesus was born, lived and died as a Jew; as his first disciples and apostles, the pillars of the Christian Church, were situated in continuity with the Jewish religious tradition of their time. However, Jesus transcends it because, according to Christian belief, he cannot be considered only as a Jew, but also as the Messiah and Son of God. The document states thus: the fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity, that is, how the figure of Jesus is to be evaluated. Jews are able to see Jesus as belonging to their people, a Jewish teacher who felt himself called in a particular way to preach the Kingdom of God. That this Kingdom of God has come with himself as God’s representative is beyond the horizon of Jewish expectation (n. 14)".
But both Jews and Christians believe that the God of Israel is revealed through his Word, to offer people a lesson on how to achieve a good relationship with God and neighbor. This Word of God can be identified by the Jews in the Torah; for Christians, it is incarnate in Jesus Christ. However, the Word of God is undivided and requires a response from the men that allows them to live in right relationship with God.
For Christians through Jesus all men are part of that salvation, all are saved, and even if Jews cannot believe in Jesus Christ as the universal savior, they share in the salvation for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. How this happens remains an unfathomable mystery of God's saving plan.
Hence, among other things, the affirmation, that " the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews”.
Rabbi David Rosen of the International Director of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee (AJC), and Edward Kessler, Founder Director of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, were generally positive in tehir reception of the document.
Rosen underlined "the clear repudiation affirmed in this document of any “replacement or supersession theology which sets against one another a Church of the Gentiles (against a) rejected Synagogue whose place it takes.”
In his view, however, "in the spirit of our mutual respect and friendship", it should be stressed, "to fully respect the idea that Jews have of themselves", you need to understand "the centrality of the Land of Israel plays in the historical life and contemporary religiosity of the Jewish people, and that seems to be missing. "
The rabbi recalled that Jewish scholars over the centuries have developed " Jewish luminaries over the centuries have indeed themselves articulated a concept of complementarity in seeing Christianity as a Divine vehicle by which the universal truths that Judaism brought to the world , can in fact be more effectively disseminated throughout the universe beyond the limitations posed by Jewish Peoplehood”.
"Today - said Kessler - it is clear that many of the major issues of division have been eliminated or brought to the farthest point, where an agreement is possible." "During the last five years - he added - Jews and Christians have seen a big change and, as a new document shows, great strides have been made, but we are talking about a dynamic and relentless process. We will never be able to sit down and say, 'The work is done. The agenda has been completed '. However, on many important issues, Jews and Catholics find themselves on the same side of the theological fence, facing the same challenges, and we are in the unusual position of trying to address them together".