Dominus Iesus also raised questions about Catholic-Jewish relations. Cardinal Cassidy and Archbishop Kasper took immediate steps to plant the idea that the document did not apply to Jews. They had some success in this regard, and Ratzinger appeared to go along with this. His subsequent writings on the Jews, which contain a favorable tone, as well as his endorsement of the 2001 Pontifical Biblical Commission document on the Jews and their Scriptures in the New Testament, did take much of the sting out of Dominus Iesus in terms of Catholic-Jewish dialogue. But questions still remain that only an explicit exception for Jews could finally overcome.

So Benedict XVI comes to the papacy with a definite shadow over him regarding interfaith and interreligious relations. In his homily to the cardinals after his election, he gave the impression of wanting to reach out to other religions. But the ultimate proof of his sincerity will depend on 1) who he appoints to the two critical curial offices concerned with ecumenical and interreligious dialogue; 2) what he says and does on possible visits to Geneva, Canterbury, or Constantinople; and 3) how he receives leaders of other faith traditions who may visit the Vatican.

In other words, the proof will come only with concrete actions. We can all hope and pray that his previous track record on ecumenical and interreligious relations will be overcome, and the shadow over him because of Dominus Iesus and other similar statements will vanish. Let us hope the Holy Spirit willgrant him the grace necessary to make this step forward.

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