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Bishops' Committee Issues Collection of Documents on `The Bible, The Jews, and The Death of Jesus'

 
February 11, 2004

WASHINGTON (February 11, 2004) -- The Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is publishing a collection of key documents of Catholic teaching on the Church's relationship to the Jews and its opposition to anti-Semitism.

The volume is entitled "The Bible, the Jews and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents."

Included is the BCEIA's 1988 "Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion."

Other documents included in this collection comprise statements on Catholic teaching about the interpretation of Scripture, Catholic understanding and proper presentation of the passion and death of Christ, and the Church's ongoing condemnation of the sin of anti-Semitism.

Stockton Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the BCEIA, said that "two major developments within the Church awakened and fostered a new understanding of the relationship between the Church and its roots in Judaism."

The first of these developments was the biblical movement. This promoted a re-reading of the Gospels "through analysis of literary and historical forms, in order to identify a fuller theological understanding," Bishop Blaire said.

The second development was that at the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Blaire continued, the Church "formulated its commitment to re-examining its relationship with the Jewish people."

Included in the volume is the Second Vatican Council's groundbreaking statement that "neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during the passion" (Second Vatican Council, "Nostra Aetate" ["In Our Time"], # 4).

The Council also stated that "the Church reproves every form of persecution against whomever it may be directed. Remembering, then, her common heritage with the Jews and moved not by any political consideration, but solely by the religious motivation of Christian charity, she deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews."

Also included in this collection are instructions issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission beginning in 1964 examining how the Church reads Scripture in general and the New Testament with reference to the Jews.

There are also statements of Pope John Paul II, the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference.

Bishop Blaire said that behind these statements was a wish "to understand better the salvation in Christ by seeing the unique place of Jews and of the Jewish religion in the unfolding of salvation."

The collection is intended to be useful for preachers and teachers, for parish discussions, and for Catholic-Jewish dialogue groups.

"The Bible, the Jews and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents," No. 5-618, paperback, 128 pp., $11.95 ISBN 1-57455-618-5 is available February 23, 2004. To order this resource or to obtain a catalog of other USCCB titles, call toll free 800-235-8722. In the Washington metropolitan area or from outside the United States, call 202-722-8716. Visit the bishops' Internet site at www.usccb.org. Para ordenar recursos en espa�ol, llame al 800-235-8722 y presione 4 para hablar con un representante del servicio al cliente en espa�ol.

This is the full text of the statement by Bishop Blaire.


On February 5, 2004, in a meeting with Jewish representatives at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II, noted: "As we now approach the 40th anniversary of this historic document (Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council's condemnation of anti-Semitism), there is regrettably a great need to repeat our utter condemnation of racism and anti-Semitism." In order to re-affirm the Church's teaching on its relationship to the Jews and its stand against anti-Semitism, the BCEIA has decided to re-publish its 1988 Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion, and to do so in a volume which gathers together key documents of Catholic teaching over more than forty years. The volume is entitled The Bible, the Jews and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents. The documents included clarify Catholic teaching on the interpretation of Scripture, Catholic understanding regarding a proper presentation of the Passion and Death of Christ, and the Church's ongoing condemnation of the sin of anti-Semitism.

Two major developments within the Church awakened and fostered a new understanding of the relationship between the Church and its roots in Judaism. The first was the biblical movement, which led the Church to a fuller understanding of the Gospels through the analysis of literary and historical forms. This movement, launched in 1943 by Pope Pius XII, with the publication of his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, was fully incorporated into the teaching of the Church with the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, Dei Verbum, in November, 1965 (especially nos. 3 and 12). The second development was one that occurred in the Second Vatican Council, where the Church formulated its commitment to re-examining its relationship with the Jewish people. This re-examination began with a reflection on the ongoing nature of God's covenant with the Jewish people and its implications for all of Catholic theology.

The first readings included in this volume, following the Conciliar declaration, Nostra Aetate, no. 4, were issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission beginning in 1964. These examine how the Church reads its Scriptures in general, and particularly how it understands the New Testament with reference to the Jews (Section A). They are followed by statements of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (Section B), the Holy Father (Section C) and, finally, our own Conference (Section C), concluding with the 1988 Criteria, which is thereby set within the larger framework of pertinent Church teachings.

Behind all of these statements lies the determination of the Church to oppose anti-Semitism, and to understand more fully the salvation of all humanity in Christ, while affirming the unique place of Jews and Judaism in the unfolding of the mysteries of salvation universally proclaimed by the Church. We hope that these texts will be useful for those entrusted with preaching and teaching in the Church, as well as in parish discussion and Catholic-Jewish dialogue groups.

Cardinal William H. Keeler, who as Episcopal Moderator for Catholic-Jewish Relations raised the idea for this book with the committee, commented: "The charge of collective guilt of the Jews as a people for the death of Jesus, for many centuries distorted in the minds of many Christians, the central truth that it is our sins that are responsible for His death. So pervasive was this misconception, even in the 16th Century, that the Roman Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically sought to rebut it (I, 5, 11), by reminding us that our sins, committed knowingly as Christians, are much worse than whatever was done by the few Jews actually involved in the historical event. Sadly, many persons ignored the Roman Catechism, and the Second Vatican Council had to reaffirm this truth in even stronger teaching. Any Christians involved in the presentation of the events of Jesus' death must, in the words of the 1974 Guidelines of the Holy See, implement Nostra Aetate no. 4 with an 'overriding preoccupation' not only to avoid portrayals of Jews that might lead to collective guilt, but also to replace them with positive ones."

Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of Stockton
Chairman, Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.




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