ROME (Oct. 31)
A high Vatican official today told a press conference here that it would be a “heavy disappointment” to the world and also “most tragic” if the Ecumenical Council now in session would not adopt a statement on Catholic-Jewish relations condemning anti-Jewish persecutions and absolving the Jews from guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. He said that the Council “will speak on Jews.”
The official, Msgr. John Osterreicher–a consultant member of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Christian Unity–revealed that the Secretariat is receiving many letters and messages “from all sides” urging the issuance of a statement on Christian-Jewish relations by the Ecumenical Council. Indicating the possibility of such a statement, be said that the Council will speak not only for the sake of the Jews, but also for the sake of the Catholic Church “because the Church has a common heredity with the Jews and it must contribute to care for it.”
Summarizing the substance of the requests received by the Secretariat for the adoption by the Ecumenical Council of such a statement, Msgr. Osterreicher said the statement should include:
1. A declaration that the history of the Church started with the patriarch and prophet and that the Church is deeply roosted in the Old Testament which is a continuation of ancient Israel. The main distinction of the Church outlook is that it embraces all humanity and it is “impossible” to forget the fact that it was Jewish expectations which Jesus came to fulfill.
2. It should point out that it is unjust to charge one people with guilt which is that of all humanity’s, a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.
3. The Church must contribute to the reparation of injustices and persecution done to the Jews in which so many Christians participated through silence or inaction. This was necessary to prevent similar horrors in the future.
Broadly, Msgr, Osterreicher stated, the Church should condemn any manifestations of hatred and any persecution against Jews, though such condemnation might be expressed also in more general ways in other conclusions of the Vatican Council.
SAYS REJUVENATION OF CHURCH REQUIRES NEW ATTITUDE TOWARDS JEWS
The Vatican official said that fears that Arabs might consider such a statement as taking sides in the Arab-Israel antagonisms were not justified, or at least were exaggerated, because the Council would not under any circumstances touch the political field. In any case, he declared, “the real wisdom is now to speak, whether it is opportune or inopportune,” and in fact, “the Council will speak.”
He stated that Protestants had made more progress in approaches to the Jews and to do likewise had become necessary to the Catholic Church from the ecumenical point of view. A rejuvenation of the Church, he added, requires a change in its attitude toward Jews.
The Vatican official pointed out that two Council Fathers–Msgr, Seper of Yugoslavia and Bishop Zeneodevrod of Holland–had asked the Council to vote on the subject of Catholic-Jewish relations. The latter, in his appeal, had recalled the time linking the Church with the “people of those faithful loved by God, the God of their Fathers.”
Replying to reporters’ questions about the timing of the statement, he said he could not answer but that when it was accomplished, he hoped that public opinion all over the world would greet it.
Another question was whether the topic of relations between the Church and Jews would remain within the province of the Secretariat for Christian Unity or be turned over to a future Secretariat for non-Christian Religions. He said that Pope Paul wanted the present Secretariat to continue to handle the matter on grounds that the Jewish religion was a biblical one and, therefore, did not belong with other non-Christian religions.