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Letter from Bishop Denis J. Madden to Jewish Dialogue Partners

A letter by our committee chairman dated January 15, 2013 expresses his gratitude and commitment to Jewish partnerships with the USCCB. In it, Bishop Madden also voices hope for the elimination of bias against Jews everywhere. The full text is on our Documents  and News Releases Produced by the USCCB on Catholic-Jewish Relations page.

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Our Catholic- Jewish Dialogues

bishop-madden-western-wall-catholic-review-montageOver the last twenty-five years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has engaged in two official dialogues with the Jewish community.  The dialogues continue to meet once or twice a year, and have addressed such topics as moral education in public schools, pornography, holocaust revisionism, the death penalty, religious hatred, children and the environment, and the tragic events of September 11, 2001. (Photo: Bishop Madden offers prayers at Western Wall.)

The dialogue with the National Council of Synagogues continues today under the direction of Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, Executive Director of the National Council of Synagogues and the His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.  A dialogue with the Orthodox Union continues under the chairmanship of Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, former President of the Orthodox Union, and Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany, New York. 

The USCCB’s Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations, which later merged into the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has produced many documents in the development of Catholic-Jewish Relations in the United States.

Further Resources

Documents and News Releases Produced by the Catholic-Jewish Dialogues

Documents  and News Releases Produced by the USCCB on Catholic-Jewish Relations

Pope Benedict XVI on Nostra Aetate

During his Apostolic Visitation to the United States in April of 2008, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Jewish community of New York City’s Park East Synagogue.  Speaking in tones of deep respect marked by fraternal warmth and affection, the pope stated:

“In addressing myself to you I wish to re-affirm the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church’s commitment to the dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better… Because of that growth in trust and friendship, Christians and Jews can rejoice together in the deep spiritual ethos of the Passover. ”

Pope Benedict XVI was, of course, referring to the Second Vatican Council’s document Nostra Aetate, whose 1965 publication proved to be a seminal moment in Jewish-Catholic relations.  This new relationship, which has advanced steadily over the last fifty years, is rooted in Nostra Aetate’s articulation of the Church’s attitude of mutual respect and gratitude, as well as historical and theological indebtedness to Judaism and the Jewish people. As the final document promulgated by the Council, Nostra Aetate stated:

“As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock. Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's sons according to faith are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant... Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.” - Nostra Aetate #4

Dialogue Progress

It was in this same spirit that in 1966 the Bishops of the United States began informal dialogue with the American Jewish community under the directorship of Rev. Edward Flannery and the fledgling Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations.  These consultations took on a formal status in 1977, when then director of the Secretariat, Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, convened a biannual symposium with the Synagogue Council of America (SCA), representing Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism.  In 1980, Dr. Fisher and Rabbi Daniel F. Polish published Formation of Social Policy in the Catholic and Jewish Traditions, followed in 1983 by Liturgical Foundations of Social Policy in the Catholic and Jewish Traditions, documenting the early years of the changing tide in Jewish-Catholic relations.

Consultations with the National Council of Synagogues (NCS), as successor to SCA and representative of Reform and Conservative Judaism in the United States, beganin 1987.  Also initiated in 1987 was a separate dialogue between the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through the Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.  This group has explored topics of mutual importance to both communities, such as marriage and school choice, and has published official joint statements. 

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