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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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Jewish

 

Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires and Pope Francis embrace after visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem (CNS photo/Paul Haring)The Church’s relationship to the Jewish people is unique. During his historic visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, Pope Saint John Paul II said, “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers” (April 14, 1986, Speech at the Great Synagogue). The Church’s dialogue with the Jewish community is built upon this respect and gratitude: the recognition its historical and theological indebtedness to Judaism and the Jewish people.

“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.[…] Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.”
- Nostra Aetate, 4

The pivotal moment in Jewish-Catholic relations came in 1965, with the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Relations with Non-Christians, Nostra Aetate. The heart of this document centered on the relationship of the Church with the Jewish people, laying the foundation for a renewed understanding of their shared heritage: “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.[…] Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles” (Nostra Aetate, 4). Importantly, the document explicitly condemns all forms of antisemitism and refutes the charge of deicide.

In the decades since, the Catholic Church has continued to foster its relationship with the Jewish people. The Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has published several documents, both practical and theological. The strength of the relationship has even allowed the Church to examine the past treatment of Jews by Christians and thus heal those wounds in its 1998 document We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. The deep conversion that has taken place since the Second Vatican Council is evident in their recent theological reflection “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable”: “That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery” (“The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable”, 36).

The USCCB responded quickly to the Second Vatican Council's call. The BCEIA issued its first document in this regard, Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations, in 1967, to be revised in 1985. Over the years they have continued to address issues of concern, with documents such as Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion, God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, and Catholic Teaching on the Shoah: Implementing the Holy See’s “We Remember".

The bishops of the United States have supported various dialogues with American Jewish communities through the Secretariat since its inception. Formal relations were established in 1977 under the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations, which later merged with the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Dialogues have addressed various topics, such as moral education in public schools, pornography, holocaust revisionism, the death penalty, religious hatred, children, the environment, and the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The dialogue continues in two official dialogues with the Jewish community.



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