Ecumenical Council Starts Debate on Catholic Stand on Jews
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Ecumenical Council Starts Debate on Catholic Stand on Jews

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The Ecumenical Council at the Vatican today started debate on the subject of ecumenism, and, particularly, on the fourth chapter of that subject which treats of the attitude of the Catholic Church toward Jews, clearing the Jewish people of the age-old accusation of deicide.

The entire schema was presented to the Council by Bi hop Joseph Martin, of Rouen, France, and was greeted by prolonged applause from the assembled prelates. The ovation, however, was interpreted as a personal tribute to Augustin Cardinal Bea, head of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, who drew up the document, including the chapter absolving the Jews of blame for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Two lines of objections were voiced by nine speakers in the Council, as the debate got under way. One group of Fathers objected to inclusion of the Jewish question in the schema, holding that the topic concerns the Catholic Church relations with other Christian faiths and that, therefore, the Jewish question should be dealt with in another context. Another group held that, in addition to treating of relations with Jews, the chapter should deal also with relations between the Church and other non-Christian religions.

One of the first speakers in the debate was an American, Joseph Cardinal Ritter, of St. Louis, who hailed the entire proposed schema as the end of the Catholic Church’s 400-year-old campaign against Protestantism.


An attack against the chapter dealing with relations with the Jewish people was voiced by Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini, of Palermo, Sicily. He told the Council that, if it dealt with the Church attitude toward the Jews, then it should deal also with the attitude toward “the many millions of Christians who are following Marxism and thus contributing to atheistic materialism.” He held that other non-Christian religions are less hostile to Catholicism than Jews or Protestants and, therefore, merit mention in the chapter.

Opposition to chapter four were also voiced by the patriarchs from Alexandria, Egypt and from Antioch, Syria. The first insisted that no specific decree on condemning any kind of persecutions was needed, since the Church always opposed such bias, and that for that reason no mention of anti-Semitism was needed. The second advised that, if a chapter on relations with Jews were needed, it should be placed in another schema.

It was at this point that Cardinal Ritter endorsed the schema as a whole. The American was supported, with particular reference to chapter four, by Archbishop Quintero, of Venezuela. Archbishop Tasuo Doi, of Tokyo, approved the proposal that the Catholic Church concede merit to other religions, but declared that other religions, in addition to the Jewish faith, should be included in chapter four.

Catholic circles here said that the opposition to the schema and to chapter four came rather as a surprise. However, they noted that the opposition to chapter four concerned not its purpose but, rather, its exclusion of non-Christian religions other than the Jewish faith. Some held that the chapter belonged in the schema entitled “De Ecclesia,” dealing with the workings of the Catholic Church. The debate on the entire schema, including chapter four, is to continue tomorrow.

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