Vatican Official Defines Terms for Dialogue With Jews

Cardinal Ratzinger says Catholics should show 'greater' love for Jews, and Jews more 'knowledge' of Jesus.

BY: Peggy Polk


Ratzinger acknowledged that from the time of the early church, relations between Catholics and Jews were "often of a conflictual character." He said that anti-Semitism "produced deplorable acts of violence in history," culminating in the complicity of some Christians in the Nazi killing of Jews during World War II.

"Even if the ultimate, execrable experience of the Shoah (Holocaust) was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology that sought to strike the Christian faith at its roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance by Christians to this atrocity is explained by the anti-Judaism present in the soul of more than a few Christians," he said.

Ratzinger's acknowledgment of the failures of Christians to come to the aid of Jews echoed a statement on the Holocaust issued by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews in 1998.

Many Jewish leaders criticized the statement on the grounds that the church did not itself accept guilt for Catholics' complicity in the Holocaust and offer a full apology.

The declaration on salvation, issued Sept. 5, and Pope John Paul II's beatification two days earlier of Pius IX, the 19th century pope who severely restricted the civil and religious rights of Jews living in the papal states, caused renewed anger. In protest, two rabbis dropped out of a scheduled symposium on dialogue between Christians and Jews, forcing the Vatican to cancel the Holy Year event.

Although the pope strongly endorsed "Dominus Iesus," he has been at pains to reassert the Vatican's commitment to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. He told his general audience on Dec. 6 that the gospel teaches that "those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes will enter God's Kingdom."

In his meditation, Ratzinger said that because of their joint belief in the Old Testament, dialogue between Christians and Jews "is placed on a different plane with respect to those with other religions." He said that although Islam also is descended from Abraham, "it has taken a different road that requires other parameters of dialogue."

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