Vatican Official Defines Terms for Dialogue With Jews

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

Ratzinger acknowledged that from the time of the early church,relations between Catholics and Jews were "often of a conflictualcharacter." He said that anti-Semitism "produced deplorable acts ofviolence in history," culminating in the complicity of some Christiansin 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 tostrike the Christian faith at its roots in the people of Israel, itcannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance by Christians tothis atrocity is explained by the anti-Judaism present in the soul ofmore than a few Christians," he said.

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

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

The declaration on salvation, issued Sept. 5, and Pope John PaulII's beatification two days earlier of Pius IX, the 19th century popewho severely restricted the civil and religious rights of Jews living inthe papal states, caused renewed anger. In protest, two rabbis droppedout 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 atpains to reassert the Vatican's commitment to ecumenical and interfaithdialogue. He told his general audience on Dec. 6 that the gospel teachesthat "those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes will enter God'sKingdom."

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

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Peggy Polk
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