Cardinal Bea Delivers Powerful Address on Jews at Ecumenical Council
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Cardinal Bea Delivers Powerful Address on Jews at Ecumenical Council

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Bishops at the Ecumenical Council who yesterday opposed adoption of the Vatican document rejecting Jewish responsibility for the death of Christ were criticized today by Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Cardinal Bea, speaking before the Ecumenical Council, said that the work of drafting the document had been started two years ago on explicit instructions of the late Pope John XXIII and not on the initiative of his Secretariat. He told the prelates that the draft was submitted to the central Commission of the Council in June 1962, but was not discussed then not because of doctrinal opposition but because of unhappy political circumstances of those days.

The Cardinal emphasized that the draft had been submitted in full to the late Pope John in December 1962, and that the Pontiff a few days later expressed to the Cardinal his complete approval. The Cardinal said his presentation today was not to influence the decision of the Bishops but to shed light on the spirit and intent of the draft.

Cardinal Bea emphasized also that the statement was neither a political nor a national matter and that under no circumstances was it meant to imply Vatican recognition of the State of Israel or an act in favor of Zionism. He added that his Secretariat had so notified the Arab states.

Discussing the content of the document, the Cardinal reiterated the bonds between the Catholic Church and the Chosen People who gave the Church “the founders and first missionaries.” He quoted extensively from St. Paul, citing the words that “divine grace on Israel was never revoked.”


He added that nevertheless it could not be denied that inside the Church there had often been said “harsh and unhappy” words against Jews in connection with the crucifixion. Referring to the events of that time, Cardinal Bea said that there had been a minority among Jews opposed to Jesus and less still of those who had shouted “crucify him,” whereas “we know that the majority of the people were against his condemnation.” He added that the Gospels indicated that not all the Jews in Jerusalem and still less all in the Holy Land or those scattered through the Holy Roman Empire of that time “can be held responsible for Jesus’ death.”

Cardinal Bea pointed out that St. Peter had even absolved the leaders because they were ignorant “so how could it be possible to blame the Jews 19 centuries later?” He added there could indeed be no question of blaming them for the decide. Besides, the Cardinal added, Jesus’ last words were an invocation to God to forgive his executioners because they “did not know what they were doing.” The Cardinal added: “How can it be doubted that such a prayer was fulfilled by God and how could the Church and her followers do otherwise?”

“Now we are asked why is all this to be repeated in the Council,” the Cardinal continued. “Those are all known things and no new things. Exactly, because they are no new things and therefore they are nearly forgotten and this is one reason to repeat them.”


The Cardinal declared that another major reason for absolving the Jews was the Nazi propaganda of the recent past which initiated the Nazi persecution that “cost the lives of millions of Jews.” “It is felt that the Nazi propaganda has affected even Catholics and it is therefore necessary to remove that influence.” he stated.

Cardinal Bea added that he knew “very well” that anti-Semitism was not based primarily on past or present teachings of the Catholic Church. “It has other roots too but the Church does not deal with them.” he said.

Cardinal Bea’s address was greeted with loud applause which the Moderator was unable to interrupt. After Cardinal Bea spoke, Archbishop Desmedt of Belgium discussed the chapter on religious liberty. Other speakers during the day who discussed the proposed chapter on the Jews said it should be located in another Schema or in an autonomous proposal. Cardinal Leger of Montreal, declaring he supported the chapters on the Jews and on religious liberty, said they should not be part of the Christian Unity Schema. The Patriarch of Jerusalem also declared his support of both chapters.

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